Review by Roger Paine.
This two-hander, by successful screenwriter, Marcus Lloyd, was the last in the current season of Murder in the Park plays from talking Scarlet. Billed as a psychological thriller such descriptions frequently mask what a play is really all about. ‘Dead Certain’ was no exception.
In fact the man, Michael (Philip Stewart, who in this production had swapped his director’s hat with Ben Roddy who had played the lead in his ‘Suddenly at Home’) shouts “What’s all this about?” when confronting the wheelchair-bound, ex-dancer, Elizabeth (Sabina Franklyn) who has lured him, a handsome journeyman actor, to her house in the country on the pretence of wanting a professional actor to play the part of man in a play she has written. Already the alarm bells are ringing. Not only in Michael’s head but with the audience who perceive it is watching a play being rehearsed by two people who are playing themselves in a play which exactly mirrors their own lives. When budding playwright Elizabeth adds, “It is important to distinguish between theme and plot”, it becomes even more difficult to know how the hapless Michael will react.
But as his anger and confusion mounts, Elizabeth reels him in with more tricks up her sleeve. Especially when it is revealed that Michael had been her idol in a West End production but had ignored her request for his autograph on the same night she suffered a horrific car accident which has left her paraplegic. Intelligent female manipulation allied with the power of punishment. Although how Elizabeth achieves her ultimate aim cannot be revealed here.
Both actors give faultless performances and keep the masterly dialogue going at pace. Yet had this weirdly intriguing play been performed at a venue more intimate than the Devonshire Park Theatre, it would surely have achieved even greater impact.