SUDDENLY AT HOME
Ein Thriller von Francis Durbridge
The older contingent will recall him as TV street-sweeper. Francis Durbridge, the master of crime fiction from England and guarantor of cleverly constructed suspense, surely would have had a good time with Suddenly at Home in Vienna’s English Theatre. The plot of this old-fashioned thriller, (directed by Paul Tomlinson) which plays with the expectations of the audience and creates tension through ever new twists and surprising effects, is quickly summarized. A filthy-rich woman wishes to emigrate to Bermuda and is murdered by her greedy husband – Greg Wagland cuts a good figure as the baddie. (…) A diamond earring and a fossil dial-telephone play important roles in all the hullabaloo. Light crime entertainment!
March 25, 2010
Catch the wicked murderer
The audience knows who the murderer is. He insidiously smothered poor Maggie Howard with a pillow. Yet the trail leads to an accomplice. In the carefully planned intrigue all the clues point to an author of diverse crime novels and sex stories, Maggie’s ex-boyfriend Sam Blaine. (…) The tale is gripping though thin in parts. To the end the audience is held in suspense, constantly having to reconsider its ideas as to suspects and who finally is tricking whom.
The reputed excellence of the English Theatre casting helps the piece attain its fitting polish. Particularly mentionable: Rachael Henley, who can be pleased with her successful theatrical debut as the au-pair playing the surprise figure of the piece. The broader public may know her from the Hollywood smash hit The Chronicles of Narnia. The violent scenes in the piece come across as (unintentionally?) comic being received with appreciative howls by the premiere audience. All in all, a stage crime worth seeing.
March 17, 2010
Alexander U. Mathé
Der neue Merker
*WIEN / Vienna’s English Theatre:
SUDDENLY AT HOME by Francis Durbridge*
The play was written by Francis Durbridge who died in 1998. To this day one recalls the name, even if one seldom encounters his work. When we do, however, the encounter is entertaining, as we can find out for ourselves at Vienna’s English Theatre with Suddenly at Home; a classic thriller can only gain from being experienced in a live auditorium…
What’s more, Suddenly at Home (first performed in 1971) appears to stick to the structure of “Dial M for Murder” (husband murders rich wife, carefully preparing his alibi in the process), but there’s nothing straightforward about Durbridge’s plot; the very fact that eight characters are involved, all of them with interlocking relationships, lends the play more tension than the usual three-hander ever has. And even if it is clear from the outset that the deceitful husband isn’t going to get away with it, the playwright has any number of fateful plot-twists and surprises up his sleeve before coming to the showdown – on this occasion not caused by the usual super-clever criminal inspector! All of these are guaranteed to give rise to squeals of surprise on the part of the audience. Of course there has to be murder onstage, brutally on the first occasion, when the wife is suffocated, but Paul Tomlinson’s clever directing takes this hurdle in its stride, too.
In a stage setting (Jacqueline Gunn) which suggests the “sixties” as adroitly as the costuming does,; unlike an Agatha Christie “Whodunnit” the question here is not who the murderer is but, in “Columbo”-style, how the culprit is going to stumble over his crime. In our case Greg Wagland portrays a truly elegant British gentleman; we are disappointed that he turns out to be such a cad. Loveday Smith (what a delightful first name) is something of a pain as the wife but hardly deserves her terrible end. Apart from her, only her confused sister (Penelope Tasker) is innocent, the others (Jody Elen Machin and Rachael Henley) can hardly be absolved of any connivance. Stephen Casey is the designated scapegoat but, with the help of Clive Moore and Frank Ellis is able to fend bravely for himself.
This may be “just another thriller”, but when it is as well-made and well-acted as this, entertaining theatre works at this level, too.
April 12, 2010