The Sacred Flame by Somerset Maughan may be unfamiliar to a younger audience.
Director Matthew Dunster has decided to strip away ‘the chintz and the chaises-lougues’ of that era to bring it afresh to the stage. By the end one can see why he wanted to revive this forgotten play.
The play is a take on the whodunit genre, where the mystery is solved by the potential suspects. After the infirm Maurice Tabert Jamie de Courcey suddenly dies, suspicions arise amongst the family members that he had been murdered.
Within a white, sterile, art deco house, the play discusses the consequences that would follow a murder investigation. Even the innocent are dragged in to the point where the revelations are brought together in an emotionally overwhelming climax. However at times so many themes run through the play that one starts to wonder what point is actually being made.
The cast on the whole are very good. Although his part is necessarily cut short Jamie de Courcey is a lively, but pained, Maurice. Sarah Churm also gives a fine performance as the frank and obedient, yet kind and faithful Nurse Wayland.
Robert Demeger is a jovial Major Liconda, but he gradually takes a sincere and scrutinizing role in the mystery. Beatriz Romilly’s dialogue however seems a bit stilted as she attempts to perfect an RP accent as Maurice’s wife, Stella Talbert.
What is revealed by the end is worth waiting, and the cast play their parts well as the drama unfolds. Just expect a few convoluted situations along the way.