The Case of the Frightened Lady

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry


The Frightened Lady touring our provincial theatres is set in 1932 at Mark’s Priory, seat of the Lebanon family for many generations.

Lady Lebanon is determined that her son, the current Lord Lebanon, should marry his cousin Isla Crane, to keep the wealth in the family, but Isla has no such desire and wishes to marry for love, not economic strategy.

There is an eerie atmosphere created by the ever-lurking behaviour of the two footmen, Gilder and Brooks, who act as Lady Lebanon’s henchmen. That is heightened when the first murder occurs – the chauffeur, conveniently named Studd, has been getting too close to the wife of the gamekeeper and so the investigation led by Chief Superintendent Tanner and Detective Sergeant Totti is launched.

The relationship between Lady Lebanon and her doctor, Dr Amersham, raises fascinating questions as we learn about his time in India where suspicious financial dealings and a murder occurred . The use of a distinctive red scarf and the issuing of dubious cheques in various directions provide vital clues as the story proceeds and further murders occur or are attempted.

As the curtain rises we are faced with an impressive set depicting a grandiose hallway in the Priory. The fancy dress party taking place at the outset contributes to a strong visual impact. The designer, Julie Godfrey, and costume supervisor, Alex Stewart, have done a superb job.

The pace of the show from the outset, with quick and short scenes, almost overlapping, establishes a strong momentum, the projection and energy are good and the standard of the performances by the cast is high.


April Pearson as Isla Crane. Pictures: Pamela Wraith

The sinister footman Gilder (Glenn Carter) is in danger of stealing the show at times with his lurking presence and supported by his sidekick Brook (Callum Coates). April Pearson as Isla Crane is the frightened victim in the middle of the action, with her stillness and very natural performance.

Strong and clearly delineated performances are also delivered by Gray O’Brien (Chief Superintendent Tanner), Deborah Grant (Lady Lebanon) and Denis Hill (Dr. Amersham).

The play is very reminiscent of the Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries with its somewhat heightened and eccentric characters, its class-ridden culture of servants and masters/mistresses, the unlikely and contrived plot that stretches credulity and becomes very melodramatic.

Apart from the explosive thunderclaps and gunshots, there is little that achieves the scary dimensions of a real thriller. The quality of the story never quite matches the excellence of the production and collective performances, but the audience were sufficiently entertained with a light and escapist tale. To 16-06-18

Tim Crow


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