Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Nothing to feel guilty about here

Dead Guilty

The Nonentities

Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


FOUR players and one disembodied voice that comes out of the darkness are involved in Hugh Meredith's fine production of this psychological thriller by Richard Harris that is a world away from those other popular creations of his, such as Outside Edge and Stepping Out. 

In fact, on the first night, the only thing that really went wrong, apart from the bottle of pills that nobody could open – in, I think, four attempts – was that voice, the voice of the coroner, the first voice we heard, right at the beginning. It came in too soon, after which we sat back and waited for it to talk to us again. 

There's no accounting for these things. It was a shame, but you can bet it is not going to happen again for the rest of the run, so I hope nobody lost any sleep over it, because this is a night of quality theatre. 

The action centres on Julia, the young woman who has been badly injured in a car crash in which her lover died – a young woman who finds herself at the mercy of Margaret, her lover's widow. Margaret, played with an increasingly ominous air by Pamela Meredith, rivets the attention with her quiet intensity – but above all with her eyes. They speak a page of script at a time. They demand that we take notice. This is a performance to treasure. 

Finger pointing: Pamela Meredith (centre) sees Kelly Lewis forcefully confronted by Lee Jones in The Nonentities production of Dead Guilty.

Kelly Lewis is Julia – edgy, dragging herself about on crutches, resorting to a voice liked scratched glass when things really get too much for her and to a piping despair when they get even worse. She makes the slow improvement in her walking completely believable until she has the operation that sets her back again. Her plight inevitably prompts people to go out of their way to be thoughtful to her – but the result is that she feels overwhelmed by collective kindness and reacts with impressive frustration. 

Gary, the young man who helps about the house and garden, is overwhelmed, too – overwhelmed by the people whom he sees as rivals for Julia's attention, namely Margaret the widow and Anne the counsellor. Lee Jones gives a tension-filled account of Gary's frustrations and Judy Bassett combines sympathy with authority as Anne, watching Julia trying to cope with inexplicable things relating to  CDs, underwear, wine bottles, a shrub and a vase, while wondering what they are saying about her state of mind. 

This top-quality cast has been given the setting it deserves – an excellent ambience representing a small London house – built by Nonentities members under Keith Higgins. A repositioning of the wheelchair and later of the stylish armchair would help to prevent much of the audience from having such an over-the-shoulder view of their occupant when there is a conversation taking place with somebody on the settee on the other side of the stage. 

But it's a production to be proud of. To 17.4.10.

John Slim 

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