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

Mystery with a touch of class

This could be a suit of armour: Milo Tindle, played by Richard Howell, tries a spot of detection while Andrew Wyke, played by Paul Evans, keeps a close gun on him


The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


EVEN the author, Anthony Shaffer, would surely have been impressed by the skill displayed by this amateur company in staging his famous twists-and-turns thriller.

It certainly gripped the first night audience from start to finish, one man even forgetting to switch off his mobile phone despite the pre-show request, and of course a call came in during the dramatic final moments!

But that couldn't detract from the pleasure of a play full of surprises and spells of humour as well as the obvious menace when two rivals in love come together with the prospect of murder on the agenda.

The action takes place in the living room of successful mystery writer Andrew Wyke's Wiltshire manor house, superbly built by the backstage staff of the players, adding considerably to the overall enjoyment.

Huge credit is due to set builders Tony Groves, Sue Groves, Robert Onions and Adam Worton whose hard work has been such a vital commodity in ensuring the play's success.

Now the cast. Paul Evans gives a powerfully convincing performance as Wyke who lures his wife's lover, Milo Tindle, to his home which contains items reflecting his fascination with game-playing . . . even a Jolly Jack Tar doll in a fairground-style glass case, which laughs at his jokes.

Seemingly jealous Wyke manages to convince Tindle, equally well played by Richard Howell, that the best way out of the crisis is to stage a robbery of his cheating wife's jewellery, with Tindle collecting a large sum of cash from a ‘fence', while he (Wyke) scoops the insurance money and continues life with his own lover.

But the writer's plot doesn't end there, and a skilfully staged shooting has the audience on the edge of their seats at the conclusion of the first act. Wyke had already demonstrated his skill with a revolver by blasting a decorative plate on the mantelpiece before choosing a much larger target.

Earlier the two main characters had combined in a realistic safe-blowing incident which underlined how determined the company was to avoid any short cuts and carrying out difficult tasks.

The second act sees the arrival of a mysterious Detective Inspector Doppler who claims to be investigating the disappearance of Milo Tindle, and for once the super-confident Wyke finds its his turn to squirm for a while.

But the strange copper isn't all he seems, and the wriggling writer suddenly finds he has another escape route with a gun in his hand. At least, he thinks he has! Gunshots and police sirens bring a fascinating story to a surprising conclusion.

Full marks to Dexter Whitehead who directs the play with great skill, and producer Jane James for her impressive contribution. To 21-09-13 

Paul Marston 

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