Love is a thing of great power. So is hate, and jealousy. And we’re told that all power corrupts. These are the emotions which engulf three of the four characters on stage in the classic thriller from 1949 by William Dinner and William Morum. The Late Edwina Black isn’t a three-hander. There is an outsider, very much alive. There is also the title character whose body is about to be buried – but whose personality is also still very much alive.
We are in 1895, as the Victorian era draws to its close. People's emotional states don't vary much through the centuries, but the methods for the detection of crime do. After all, this play is set in the decade of Sherlock Holmes.
Ian Dickens' direction is straight-forward and matched by Alan Miller Burford's sitting room set. The women's costumes are appropriate, though I would query, on historical grounds, whether a headmaster who has just lost his wife of many years would wear brown. Surely it should be black?
There’s a nuanced performance by Georgina Sutton as Lisa Graham, companion to the late Mrs Black and secretly hoping to spend the rest of her life with Gregory - now that he has been so tragically bereaved. She has just the right edginess for the part and wears her costumes as though they were her everyday clothes, which is not always the case.
Gregory Black is a weak man who presents a strong facade. Yet he must have charm - why else would two highly intelligent women have fallen for him? Charm is in rather short supply as Stephen Beckett plays the part. Katie Evans radiates sullen efficiency as Edwina's devoted former maid and present housekeeper Ellen.
Into this emotional hothouse steps the man from Scotland Yard. Stephen McGann suggests the working Londoner's intelligence and expertise gained at street level; younger, he might have been a Baker Street Irregular. It's a performance which balances a tendency towards cheeky humour with professional low cunning. I do wish he had directed some of his speeches to the other people on stage and out to us in the audience. After all, we are supposed to be the invisible fourth wall, not just sitting on the sofa.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester)