Crime dramas on the telly are my guilty pleasure, I just can’t get enough of them, as long as they are not too convoluted or implausible.
I love live theatre but in my experience many stage thrillers are often tedious, especially if they are littered with red herrings like those I have sat through from the pen of Agatha Christie; an exception is Priestley’s An Inspector Calls.
So I didn’t have high hopes for Middle Ground Theatre Company’s The Business of Murder, billed as an acclaimed psychological thriller with many twists and turns and all three characters revealing they are in the murky business.
I needn’t have worried. This was written by former TV drama stalwart Richard Harris (The Sweeney, A Touch Of Frost,The Avengers) and enjoyed a successful nine-year run in the West End. And although it was written in 1981 this production isn’t dated and the cheesy music gave an added period flavour.
Robert Gwilym, known for his role a few years back as heartthrob Dr Max Gallagher in Casualty, was transformed by a beige cardy, specs and some effective body language into an uptight creepy man, Mr Stone, pent up with anger and a penchant for playing mind games, sometimes with great glee.
Paul Opacic (a regular as Steve Marchant in Emmerdale, Mark Waddle in Bad Girls and Carl Costello in Hollyoaks), and Joanna Higson, who played Maxine Donnelly for 2 series of Shameless appear to be Stone’s victims as he sets them up for a big fall. We know he is lying as he lures them individually to his bedsit. But what is his motive? The story unravels with the plot and our sympathies rapidly changing until the conclusion, when you really can expect the cliché of the unexpected.
As the raspy voice of Hurricane Smith singing, Oh Babe, What Would You Say, plays out before the curtain call, the audience is left impressed and satisfied. Excellent acting from all three left us thrilled, as we should be.
The Business of Murder runs until Saturday.