Monday 22 January 2018

Review: Plot twists aren’t enough to save Rehearsal for Murder

Rehearsal for Murder, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin

Rehearsal for Murder
Rehearsal for Murder

Katy Hayes

Playwright Alex (Alex Ferns) and his new assistant Sally (Georgia Neville) arrive with a bunch of scripts backstage in an old West End theatre.

Exactly a year before, on the opening night of Alex’s last play, the lead actress Monica (Susie Amy) committed suicide after bad reviews came in during the opening night party. She was Alex’s fiancée, and they were due to get married the next day. But did she really commit suicide, as the police investigation believed? Or was she murdered by one of the cast? The Classic Thriller Theatre Company, which has a successful background in commercial Agatha Christie productions, tackles this stage adaptation of a 1980s TV movie.

Alex reassembles the actors from the year before and hands them scenes to read from his new playscript, a mystery drama. The scenes illuminate possible arguments and scenarios between all of them and the dead lead actress, which could easily amount to motives for murder. It’s a whodunit, with a parade of possible suspects. But melodrama is the hardest form to carry off, and some of the more intense material provoked laughter from a giddy first night audience.

Performances are good, but the actors have little to work with by way of character development since there is no psychological ambition in the script. The only strength of the play is a twisty plot as the scene readings create plausible motives for all the characters to kill Monica. And the denouement is a genuine surprise. But the dead woman is so lightly sketched, it is hard to care about her. And hard to care about the show.

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