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Write Me a Murder (tour - Southwold, St Edmund's Hall)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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It’s been around since the 1960s and now clunks a bit. Just like those old-fashioned sit-up-and-beg typewriters used the two of the main characters to peg down their fictions. One of these is houseboat-dwelling David Rodingham (Mark Jackson); the other is Julie Sturrock (Kate Middleton – no, not that one), who’s married to the crass businessman Charles (Simon Snashall).

They meet because David’s older brother Clive (Jonny McPherson) is about to inherit a 500 year-old country seat and the title which goes with it. Julie has set her heart of winning a short-story competition and so finally seeing her words in print. Sturrock wants to buy the estate, and has few compunctions about how he goes about it. Clive just wants the money, and an American heiress. David is a successful-enough author, but can’t bear to see the estate pass into unworthy hands.

This being a thriller by the author of Dial “M” For Murder and Wait Until Dark, you can guess that the plotting of the characters doesn’t quite go according to their carefully-laid plans. Phil Clark’s direction does nothing much to speed the action on its way, leaving time to wonder how a house of this size, either side of the Second World War, runs itself without any staff (an off-stage nurse for the dying Lord Rodingham apart). So Dr Woolley (Jill Freud]), the local physician who has known the family for many decades, has to let herself in and out.

Middleton, Freud, Jackson and McPherson all give their characters as much life as the author allows them; this is one of those plays where the puppet-strings tend to catch the spotlight. On the other hand, Write Me a Murder does offer a master-class in how to actually write a mystery story – implausibilities and all. Snashall plays a thoroughly unpleasant person, but seems ill at ease with the brashness of the part.


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