Guilt (Liverpool)

Venue: Lantern Theatre
Where: Liverpool

It is not easy to write about a thriller without giving the game away. Write too much and the murderer is unmasked and enjoyment spoilt for future audiences; although there is the renowned case of the critic who did reveal the killer in a famous play.

In Guilt by Sarah Wilkinson (a busy lady as she also directs and plays Margaret) the country house murder mystery is back but with a difference. There is still a group of people stranded in a remote location, outside the weather is treacherous and inside there are as many red herrings as ever. But gone are the knitting spinster, the bombastic colonel and there is definitely no sign of a maid or a butler so it is no plot spoiler to write ‘the butler did NOT do it’. In this play all the characters are youngish, the language is up to date and no inspector calls.
It is Eleanor’s birthday and she and her sister Louisa arrange a party with a group of close friends. There is tension in the air from the start and this is ratched up further when the guests arrive and all sorts of revelations surface. Wilkinson can certainly write pacy dialogue injecting some humour into the proceedings and she builds to a satisfying murder to close the first half.

While the furnishings may not indicate a luxurious manor house the tiny space is well used to show a living room, upstairs bedroom and bathroom not to mention some talking or skulking behind doors.

The production plays at a fair lick so that the proceedings hurtle to the deed and some lively duologues in the second half ensure the motives and undercurrents are rivetingly played before the credible solution is revealed.The actors work hard creating believable relationships and the three women (Catherine Copley, Louise Hamer and Sarah Wilkinson) in particular give convincing performances.

The theatre is tiny so that you feel you are in the same room as these people which adds to the claustrophobic feel and drama of the play. There is free parking, a friendly welcome, comfortable inexpensive bar and then a knotty problem for sleuths to unravel which all make for a satisfying evening and good value for your money.

– Richard Woodward