There is more Murder in the Park from Talking Scarlet this week, with a clever and exciting Sound of Murder at the Devonshire Park Theatre.
Now then, are we sometimes too hasty to slap a label on a show, and take it for granted? Rather unfair mental pigeon-holing often decrees that musical theatre must be fun and fluffy (unless it’s Sweeney Todd) and Shakespeare is never funny (except for Pyramus and Thisbe) and Ibsen is always grim (very well, I might allow you that one...). But the theory can be very unfair to murder mysteries.
Truthfully, the winning formula for a thriller has only a limited number of plot variants. It does need a body or three, a high quota of shocking moments, and a willing audience which buys into all the plot twists. Well, The Sound of Murder ticks all those boxes. But what marks it out is some interesting characterisation and some rather fine acting - which, in any other genre, would earn more recognition.
The plot - without too many spoilers - is a variant on How To Get Away With Murder, and it unrolls briskly and quite convincingly. There is a spot of adultery and some thoroughly disreputable conduct from virtually everyone, and the developments in Act Two are genuinely exciting and surprising. It neatly, almost too neatly, comes full circle and Tuesday’s first-night audience left the theatre well satisfied.
But back to the acting. The characters face genuine moral dilemmas, and the wrestling of conscience is expertly and quite sensitively played. There is actually more than one nod to Hamlet, and an artful echo of An Inspector Calls, but none the worse for that. Marcus Hutton is Charles, an author with a perfectly played unpleasant superiority, and Corrine Wicks combines elegance with angst as his unhappy spouse Anne.
Ben Roddy is assured as Peter, the over-assertive lover with a scheme, and his scenes with Corrine have a genuine gravitas. Michelle Morris has a cracker of a part as the author’s secretary, a kind of mouse that roared. John Hester’s detective inspector is enigmatic and knowingly in control, and Jolyon Young’s cheery constable completes the line-up.
Direction and design, by Pat Kearns and David North, are solid and once or twice - especially with lighting - quite adventurous, and the 1960 setting is nicely re-created. Up to scratch, and an enjoyable show. By Kevin Anderson
The Sound of Murder runs until Saturday June 25. Tickets priced £14.50 - £19, under 25 years £10, on www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk or call Box Office on 01323 412000.