The only real mystery in The Verdict is why The Agatha Christie Theatre Company chose this play to take on tour.
Instead of an iconic a good old whodunnit romp with brain-teasing twists and turns, the murder takes place in full view and, instead of a tale of clever detection, there follows a morality saga about the foolishness of kindness.
Professor Karl Hendryk (Cornishman Robert Duncan best known as Gus in Drop The Dead Donkey) has fled persecution in an unnamed European country where nobly assisting the family of a friend has put his life in danger. He is now ensconced in a London university where he is revered by students and has become a respected member of society but whose high principles mean scraping by on a low income.
But it is when he switches high principles for a seemingly greater good that things go tragically wrong.
His invalid wife Anya (Casualty’s Cassie Raine) is not so content. She bemoans the loss of her house and life in Europe, is understandably cranky about her debilitating illness for which there is no proven cure.
Monarch of The Glen’s Dawn Steele is convincing as Anya’s dedicated cousin Lisa Koletsky who pays the price for kindness – hers and others – as the sorry tale unfolds.
The domestic harmony is acutely observed by EastEnders’ ‘Mrs Hewitt’ Elizabeth Power as the stereotypical cockney char Mrs Roper ripping off her employers and eager for her 15 minutes of fame.
Dr Stoner (the ubiquitous Mark Wynter), an unfaltering friend, and student Matthew Lewis (Lester Cole – ‘Neville Longbottom’ in the Harry Potter films) make up the domestic scene that will seemingly continue unendingly day in, day out.
That is until rich, spoiled and selfish debutante Helen Rollander (Ali BastionHollyoaks/The Bill) sweeps in and demands the professor’s time and attention. Her father Sir William (Little Shop of Horror’s Martin Carroll) brokers a deal in which the professor’s principles are compromised for the greater good… and so begins the slide to disaster and the question of just who is morally responsible for the death.
Despite the excellent cast, Simon Scullion’s suitably shabby book-lined set and Martin Clarke’s on point 50s costuming, this is a long turgid evening with a clumsy script and little character definition. Disappointing