Reviewed by Louise Watts
I had the pleasure of experiencing the world of murder mystery yesterday evening (22 May 2017) when I went with my mother to The Hawth in Crawley to see Ruth Rendell’s “A Judgement in Stone”. I had high expectations before I went as the cast was full of well-known actors with a vast amount of experience between them. The play was set in 1978 in the middle-class Suffolk home of the Coverdale family. The Coverdale’s employ a new housekeeper by the name of Eunice Parchman, played by the beautiful Sophie Ward – not that you would have recognised her as her transformation into a middle aged (or slightly older) working class housekeeper was incredible. She is befriended by the local post office worker Joan Smith (Deborah Grant) who has a dark past but is now reformed and despite having an interest in all the villagers mail, attends church regularly.
The Coverdale family consists of George (Mark Wynter) and Jacqueline (Rosie Thomson) and George’s daughter Melinda (Jennifer Sims) and Jacqui’s son Giles (Joshua Price). On George’s birthday, after enjoying an evening together, the family are all murdered. The question is who was it? There are numerous suspects including the new housekeeper Eunice, the loyal cleaner Eva (Shirley Anne Field), the gardener with a criminal past Rodger (played by boy band Blue star Antony Costa) and the post office lady Joan, but can you work out who has the motive and the ability to perform these heinous murders?
The show has the story building up to the murders running parallel with the police investigation into solving the murders. This may sound very confusing but it actually works really well and has seamless changes between the two. I was initially a little sceptical about how this would work but all I can say is that it just does and brings the show to a tidy finale when the murderer is identified.
It is the job of two police officers to solve the murders and this falls to one man with lots of police experience Andrew Lancel. Andrew, although best known for playing the villain Frank Foster in Coronation Street will always be DI Neil Manson from The Bill to me. It was an absolute pleasure to see Andrew on stage playing the part of Detective Superintendent Vetch, a police officer from London who has been deployed to use his skills to solve the sleep village murders. He is assisted by Detective Sergeant Challoner, a local policeman played by Ben Nealon OBE. The partnership between both the police officers was perfect and they even became acquainted enough to share a delicious sandwich made by DS Challoner’s wife!
The set is absolutely beautiful and encapsulates middle class 1970’s England. The set consists of one room within the Coverdale home and works brilliantly. It is so beautifully done, it is easy to forget that it is actually a set and not actually a real home.
I would love to talk about the performance of every actor involved but there is too much to say so to summarise the performances of tonight’s cast, I would say that the acting was of an exceptionally high standard and each and every actor was a delight to watch. All the characters were portrayed perfectly and the whole cast should be very proud of the performance they executed.
My mother and I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening at The Hawth. It is a lovely venue with ample free parking on site. The bars are well equipped with soft drinks and alcoholic drinks as well as snacks and hot drinks. The staff are always very friendly and helpful and the atmosphere in the foyer before the show and during the interval is always buzzing. A real community venue.
I would recommend this show to anyone who likes a murder mystery and the thrill of trying to work out whoddunit! A thoroughly well executed piece of theatre, a sheer delight to watch.
Tickets cost from £26 to £33.50 (booking fees may apply).
A Judgement in Stone is at The Hawth in Crawley from 22-27 May 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.parkwoodtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 01293 553636.
The Hawth, Hawth Avenue, Crawley, Sussex, RH10 6YZ | 01293 553636