I suspect even Milligan's genius could not have saved Richard Stockwell's Bad Blood, a drama so mind-numbingly dreadful, and mouth wateringly risible, that as The Producers' Bialystock and Bloom might have put it, it should close 'on page seven!'. Unlike 'Springtime for Hitler', however, I think it most unlikely ticket touts will rush for seats or that this will become the biggest hit on Broadway, not even Wimbledon Broadway.
Described in the marketing material as a 'gripping psychological thriller', this show neither grips nor thrills. Laughs there are, a-plenty. Unintentional, of course. For the record, ex-soap star and TV icon Gillian Taylforth plays Vic to Gary Mavers' Tom. They're an affluent and attractive couple who have everything in the world except a baby. Taylforth's distraught character is pushed over the marital edge when a young intruder, with the unlikely sobriquet of 'Smokey', warns her of Tom's infidelity and a plot to kill her so he can get his grubby little paws on her shares in a radio station they both own.
There's also a skeleton from Tom's past in the form of Julie Buckfield's Belinda, who may or may not be his daughter, and a duplicitous lawyer called Jack. By the first act curtain, the audience couldn't have cared less who was conspiring against whom and with what motives in mind. By the second act curtain - and after endless exposition, explanation, back-stories, and a non-denouement - those left in the stalls had simply lost the will to live.
Whatever personality flaws these characters suffer from, it's not a lack of verbosity. The endless chatter is taken at such a fast pace that, if you mistakenly drift in to the wrong theatre to watch this drivel, a wet towel wrapped firmly around your forehead is highly recommended. I can only suppose that the normally reliable director Roger Redfarn - a stalwart of provincial and West End theatre for more years than I (or probably he) care to remember - hoped taking the text at a gallop would serve to mask the barminess of the whole enterprise.
As to the performances, Taylforth is watchable enough and, mercifully for her, takes an early exit. Mavers, another TV veteran, is not an unattractive actor; in fact, I should like to see more of him - in something far worthier. Of the others, the less said the better.
If you like this sort of dated drama, go see Frederick Knott's Dial M for Murder. If you like theatrical calamities, by all means take in Stockwell's variation which could fittingly be renamed Dial R for Rubbish.
- Stephen Gilchrist (reviewed at Bromley's Churchill Theatre)