Stone Cold Murder’s thrills and chills

When the Devonshire Park murder mystery season opens, you know that summer has properly arrived. The audience at Tuesday’s first night absolutely loved it.

Some, no doubt, were fresh from the tennis next door and in the mood for more drama. Confusing? “The suspect was undone by a double-fault in the second act.”

But they were willingly complicit in all the scary bits, they forgave preposterous plot twists, and their final applause was as rousing as for a Johanna Konta match point.

It’s a precarious balance between comic and grisly, but a fine quartet of actors carries it off with style. In a dark story there are spells of menace, and moments of fright, but it all feels wickedly tongue-in-cheek.

Olivia (an intriguing Freya Copeland) and Robert (a bluff and genial Nick Barclay) run a remote hotel in the Lake District which might benefit from an Alex Polizzi visit. But instead of the Hotel Inspector, their stranger on a bleak night is Ramsay, played with sinister control by Graham Martin.

There is mischief afoot, and by the interval the audience is baffled and eager for more. With Gary Turner’s mix of engaging and roguish as Sam, Act Two moves from head-scratching to jaw-dropping. No spoilers here, but plenty of villains and victims will keep you glued. By Kevin Anderson.