Strictly Murder by Brian Clemens

Dates and Venue 16 Jan - 13 Feb 2010 @ 8.00pm & 24 Jan & 7 Feb @ 2pm | Metro Theatre (1370 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver)

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Agatha Christie did influence a lot of British playwrights including Clemens whose murder mystery thrillers like this one follow the Sherlock Holmes tradition of "whodunit" (although Clemens would rather refer to his play as "what the hell's going on dunit") with all its twists and turns. This particular murder mystery takes place in France just about the start of the Second World War when Poland was about to be invaded.

Clemens who was a child when the war broke out started off his writing career as a messenger boy/copywriter on Fleet Street, and worked his way up. He ended up writing 14 stage plays and is best known for writing a number of popular TV shows including The Avengers, The Persuaders, Perry Mason, and The Professionals.

This play which takes place in Provence, France in April of 1939 is about an English couple, Peter Meredith (Paul Tourneur) and Suzy Hinchcliffe (Mandana Namazi) who are living in "near poverty". A stranger by the name of Ross (Paul Fisher) intrudes into their peaceful life, and then....well, folks, the mystery thriller begins, and you have to go see the show to find out what happens next.

I went to the January 21st evening performance, and I was impressed by the quality of acting. The actors were speaking very clearly and projectd quite well. I was sitting at the back row and I picked up every word that was said, without any hearing aid, mind you. Torneur and Namazi felt comfortable with each other in their scenes. Fisher who played Ross and later a twin brother did absolutely well. The other character, Josef (I wasn't sure whether he was played by Blaine Anderson or Paul Kloegman that evening, as both actors shared this role, and looked alike, but I was informed by one of the ushers that it was Kloegman. If it was him, he played the mentally challenged character quite convincingly.

Deborah Spitz as Miriam Miller looked and acted the part perfectly, and Carl Maier as the Radio Announcer, well, what can you say about Radio Announcers you only hear and not see? Although there were a few glitches in the technical side, such as why there was no wine in the bottle, and Fisher was drinking off an empty glass while Tourneur had his red wine in his glass. Another thing I noticed was that the lamp that was put on the window wasn't lighted at all. And one last thing: the blackout between the first and second scene I felt was a bit too long. The audience shouldn't be left in the dark for more than five seconds. I think there was also a misprint in the programme where Scene 2 should have been Scene 3 in both the first and second acts.

However, despite these minor glitches, (it is community theatre after all), the play came through quite well. Congratulations to Director Don Glossop for delivering this play successfully. In all the years I've been reviewing Metro, I've always been an admirer of the scene design, and so, kudos again, to Metro Theatre, especially to Set Designer Kathleen Hilton for a beautifully and impeccably designed set.

© 2010 Ed Farolan