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

Treatment finds the right cure

Prescription for Murder

Highbury Theatre Centre, Sutton Coldfield 


INTERESTING. Strident wallpaper, but the action creeps up on us so quietly. Playwright Norman Robbins is content to wait while we try to pick up on who intends to do what to whom, and why.

There's the box of cakes: are they as lethal as we think they may be, and who's going to see what they taste like? There is the thought that one of the party is only worth something when dead. There are the books – one of which, clearly a Reader's Digest Condensed Book, finds itself proclaimed as a first edition and, like the rest, practically priceless.

The books are the pride and joy of the irascible doctor, said to have a heart of gold to go with his gruff exterior. He is played by Vaughan Tolley – not entirely with certainty on the first night, but with lots of vigour and bluster in the face of accusations that find him compared to the late Dr Shipman.

As his wife, Sue Lynch comes efficiently to a role that finds her registering a nice line in pop-eyed disbelief at the end of the first act, and Dee White is effortlessly reliable as Julia, the friend with the rather superior air.


Richard Cogzell scores as Eric, the mysterious visitor, and Reg Tolley brings a confident Devon accent – and indeed a confident performance – as Allan, who is apt to turn up from time to time intoning a hint of the ambience that lies beyond that wallpaper. Maureen Moffat is his wife Mary, who doesn't like to give him a chance to discuss bowls. This is a pleasing pairing, though when Mary has some dramatic news she rather surprisingly seems to be in no particular hurry to share it.

Gwen Evans is Dorothy, impressively engaged at the start of the play in unloading all those books from the bookcase, a few at a time. This can be quite hard work, because books never co-operate when they are required to move, but this is a challenge that is met without any apparent tremor and it is not allowed to impinge on her subsequent performance.

Hazel Tolley's production never flags, and Malcolm Robertshaw has designed an attractive set, which keeps its telephone decently hidden in the hall. To 26-03-11.

John Slim 

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