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Verdict (tour – Westcliff)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Doing the right thing is never easy. There are times when a good man’s virtuous actions bring almost more woes than he sought to alleviate in the first place. Agatha Christie wrote Verdict, which is a psychological drama rather than a whodunit, in 1958 when the traumas which led to the horrors of the Second World War were still fresh in the collective memory and when the Cold War was teetering on the edge of becoming a hot conflict.

We know who is to die, and we see that death achieved. But the verdict of the title doesn’t really refer to the person who will stand trial; it’s our judgement on the value to be put on life (even one confined in pain to a wheelchair) and the balance between a greater good and personal obligations which is required.

As with Joe Harmston’s other productions for the Agatha Christie Stage Company, this play is well cast, effectively designed by Simon Scullion and draws us into the drama with considerable subtlety. Robert Duncan plays Karl Hendryk, the émigré academic with an invalid wife (Cassie Rayne as Anya). The moths drawn to Hendryk’s flame are earnest student Lester (Matthew Lewis) and socialite Helen – ice-blue selfishness made three-dimensional by Ali Bastian.

Lisa, Anya’s sister, devoted carer and Hendryk’s willing assistant, is another good performance, this time by Dawn Steele. Mark Winter as the family doctor and Martin Carroll as Helen’s wealthy father are the other two main male characters. Helen may be lethal in her attempt to force the conclusion she desires, but housekeeper Mrs Roper is equally a manipulator, helping herself to kitchen supplies, cigarettes and ultimately people’s lives. Elizabeth Power makes her properly unpleasant.


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