Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
Last night was press night at Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall for the stage adaption of Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone. It’s one of the few mystery murder books that I haven’t read so along with my mum I was looking forward to the evening ahead. It’s a star packed cast with the likes of Rosie Thomson and Antony Costa so expectations were running high.
The play tells the story of four family members, The Coverdales, found shot dead by their housekeeper Eunice Parchman. The story starts with the murders and plays out in flashbacks with the police investigation running alongside the story. It’s an interesting way to explain the means and motive on stage and added a certain something to the story.
As it is such a high profile investigation for such a small village a police investigator is sent down from London (Andrew Lancel) and he joins local detective (Ben Nealon) as they interview the likely suspects. The flashbacks explain the story from beginning to end starting with Eunice’s interview with Mrs Coverdale (Rosie Thomson) and her subsequent appointment as family housekeeper. Eunice is a hard worker and soon puts the current cleaner’s (Shirley Anne Field) nose out of joint and she is soon bad mouthing her to the ex con gardener (Antony Costa) and in the local village. The village post mistress Joan Smith (Deborah Grant) comes up to the house to see what all the fuss is about and they strike up a peculiar friendship. Joan is a real highlight of the performance as she reads the villager’s mail and passes evangelical judgments on each and everyone one of them. This combined with her flamboyant, ex prostitute, dress sense makes for interesting and humorous entertainment.
As we find out who the murderer is near the end of the show I was disappointed that that it was so obvious, the lack of motive from anyone else rather giving the game away. I think this could have been interpreted rather more from the book to give more of a whodunit.
All of the cast give strong and reliable performances throughout but we were left with several unanswered questions at the end, why did Joan crash her car that night, and why did Eunice want to hide her big secret so badly.
The show was held at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly hall which has been comfortably refurbished to provide comfortable seating and a well-stocked and vibrant bar area. Parking is right next door in a large multi storey car park at a total cost of £1.50 for the entire evening and there are plenty of restaurants nearby if you are looking for a bite to eat.
Despite the small flaws, it was an entertaining evening and if you are a Ruth Rendell fan A Judgement in Stone is definitely well worth an evening out.
Tickets cost from £15 to £24.50 (booking fees may apply).
A Judgement in Stone is at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells from 15-20 May 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01892 530613.
Assembly Hall Theatre, Crescent Rd, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 2LU | 01892 530613