The lights go down, gunshots ring out and then, a flash of light and the killer is revealed in the Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s clever whodunit Rehearsal for Murder, which opened at the Broadway Theatre in Peterborough last night (Monday).
In classic murder mystery style, the accuser and his accused are brought together under one roof - in this case a deserted West End theatre.
Playwright Alex Dennison (Robert Daws) has gathered a cast for a reading of his latest work, about the murder of a famous actress, which, as it unfolds, bears an uncanny resemblance to events exactly a year previously, in the same venue, when his wife-to-be, film star Monica Welles (real-life wife Amy Robbins) made her stage debut with the same actors in his latest comedy.
Something was troubling her, the reviews were mixed and hours later she was dead.
Suicide said the police.... but Dennison had other ideas and he was going to prove foul play.
The fateful night is played very cleverly in flashback (not easy on stage), before the cast (of instantly recognisable faces from TV) run through their scenes, each one supposedly flushing out a motive for the murder.
Fingers are pointed, accusations made, alibis questioned and voices are raised as tensions rise.
But as with any true whodunit all is not as it seems, and there are plenty of terrific twists and turns before the truth comes out.
Daws (who starred with Robbins in The Royal) is excellent as the heartbroken accuser in chief, his anger pretty much contained as he raises suspicions and tries to convince everyone a murder had been committed. He is the focal point of the whole piece and holds things together masterfully.
Robbins proves a class act, very convincing and slightly mysterious as the troubled leading lady who pulls no punches it appears as she gives her leading man David (Robert Duncan, Drop The Dead Donkey) a tremendous slap across the face.
Rehearsal For Murder was written by the creators of TV’s Murder, She Wrote and Columbo, and in keeping with those the thrillers is light, filled with false leads, and there is just the right amount of humour, most of it oneliners from the mouth of producer Bella Lamb (Susan Penhaligon), and light-hearted swipes at the theatre world.
The set is great, and well lit at key moments, and the eerie music as matters get serious, adds beautifully to the atmosphere.
See rehearsal For Murder at the Broadway until Saturday, January 23). Contact the box office on 01733 822225.