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

Murder and mayhem takes a bow

Herman (Stefan Austin, left), Anne (Kerena Taylor) and Robert (Martin Copland-Grey) and at the centre of the action among the twists and intrigue of theatre thriller Stage Struck

Stage Struck

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


A DRAMATIC surprise, well accomplished, at the end of the first act gives Simon Gray's thriller the lift it probably needs, and lays the foundation for a post-interval feast of gunshots, shocks and a general increase in excitement.

The story concerns a theatre couple: he is a stage manager who is envious of his actress wife's successes – but it is what happens, rather than the reasons for it, that carries it along. The most memorable line comes when one of the cast of four picks up the telephone and says, “This is the deceased speaking.”

Mr Gray is clearly inviting us not to take things too seriously. Perhaps he was deliberately testing our attention when someone lies on his back – ie, supine – on the settee and is required to announce that he is prone, which is not the same thing at all. In any case, he need not have said anything: we can see quite clearly for ourselves the position he has put himself in.

And what are we too make of the symbolic knife and gun that we learn have been laid on the bed? Do they mean that death is coming murderously to the man or to his wife, or is there a suicide in store?


Martin Copland-Grey is Robert, the husband of seven  years, the behind-the-scenes man on the way to claiming his own starring role. He spends much of the action in an excited twitter, but somehow manages to stay in control of the remarkable speed with which he is occasionally required to speak.

Kerena Taylor brings self-confident glamour as the actress who has won awards. Her name is Anne, and it seems something special in the way of coincidence that the psychiatrist to whom she turns – and she was turning all the way back in 1979, when this agreeable piece of hokum was written – is called Widdicombe, so we now know that as far as politics and the dance floor are concerned we've been watching life imitating art.

Bob Graham is Widdicombe. He arrives as Anne's well-spoken psychiatrist but is required in the second act to sound like one of the lads from darn sarf, which he does with conviction, well sustaining an unexpected interlude when he holds centre-stage with aplomb.

Stefan Austin is the amiable, if unlikely-named, Herman, who takes his turn in the gun-pointing palaver that happens after the interval.

There are red herrings and red blood. There's a bleeding body behind the settee: there must be, because we can see it. I bet stage manager Keith Higgins and his talented set-building crew were relieved when they realised that their excellent handiwork was going to emerge unscathed from all that shooting and stabbing.

To 19-02-11

John Slim

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