After the holiday hiatus and the late summer heat The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre returned with an enigmatic and idiosyncratic production of Torben Betts’ Murder in the Dark. Here’s what we know – there’s been a car crash on New Year’s Eve. Singer Danny Sierra and the motley crew that make up his family end up in an isolated holiday cottage in the middle of nowhere, watched over by elderly pig farmer Mrs Bateman. They get there at different times, adding to the intrigue and then strange things begin to happen. No murders, no sudden deaths but the lights go out. Perturbed and disturbed the various characters begin to lose it, or do they? Danny’s life becomes the focus of their attention. He was a star, a drunk and not a great parent.
Now we are in family psycho drama mode. Meanwhile the pig farmer appears to be the joker in the pack, knowing more than she admits. It is like a fishbowl therapy session with a couple of twists along the way including the discovery of a phantasmagoric girl in the outside loo who ends up being hanged. At this point the production takes on farcical tendencies with thriller rising. Not very believable with the writer seemingly unclear which genre he wanted to create or copy, resulting in incoherence. Despite that for the most part it remains engaging, if not comprehensible, and the performances of a talented cast make the quirkiness odd yet entertaining with Susie Blake excellent as a bonkers but bright Mrs Bateman. Director Philip Franks struggles to join the dots of the uneven directionless writing and and as a result allows too much scope for overacting which leaves the overall impact of this betwixt and between play in no man’s land.
Meanwhile a show that knows exactly what it is, Willy Russell’s award-winning musical Blood Brothers, about two twins separated at birth, comes up next at The Arnaud. Enormously popular wherever it goes book your seats early.
Murder in the Dark –

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