Reviewed by Linda Pickford
I enjoy a murder mystery and am a great fan of Ruth Rendell so I was interested as to how her book, A Judgement in Stone, had been adapted for the stage. Basically, it is set in the class driven 1970’s and the play revolves around a family killed in cold blood in the drawing room of their home. A real Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The storyline is based on the arrival of a new housekeeper of working class origins coming into the home of an upper middle-class family. The second Mrs Coverdale, played beautifully by Rosie Thomson, was delighted to have a new member of staff to help her with the day to day running of her household, especially one who called her “Madam”. Mr Coverdale, Robert Duncan of Drop the Dead Donkey fame, was pleased that his new wife was happy. However, their children from their respective first marriages were a little more socially aware and tried to treat everyone equally.
As is customary in these cases I won’t reveal the murderer but if you have read the book you will already know the answer since its opening line states the case very bluntly. The crux of the story is to work out why it happened, although the play does lead you into a big reveal.
There are many well-known actors in this interesting adaptation. If like me you are a person of a certain age you will immediately recognise Shirley Anne Field who plays a rather grumpy cleaner (Eva Baalham), Chris Ellison plays Detective Superintendent Vetch, who is exactly as I remember him in The Bill and also Ben Nealon, Detective Sergeant Challoner, from Soldier Soldier. If however you are much, much younger you will know Antony Costa from the group Blue who takes the part of an ex-offender who is now the part time gardener.
The stars of the show, in my opinion, are Deborah Grant who takes the part of Joan Smith the wife of the local postmaster. An ex-prostitute who has found religion and has a great over the top enjoyment of life. She becomes the friend of lonely Eunice Parchman, the new housekeeper, played beautifully by Sophie Ward. Her downtrodden working-class amble across the stage with hunched shoulders and her convincing lower-class accent was outstanding. A real joy to watch.
The whole play takes place in one well designed set with flashbacks to earlier events. At times, I was a little puzzled by the constant time shifts but I soon settled into the story. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening’s entertainment and would recommend it for a good night out.
The Princess Theatre at Torquay is in a beautiful seaside setting and is worth a visit. Be aware of car parking charges though, due both on street and in the various car parks locally.
Tickets cost from £15.40 to £39.15 (plus £4 transaction fee).
A Judgement in Stone is at the Princess Theatre in Torquay from 11-16 September 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/torquay or call the box office on 0844 871 3023.
Princess Theatre, Torbay Road, Torquay, TQ2 5EZ | 0844 871 3023