Dead Guilty

by Richard Harris; dir Doreen Belton
Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry
24  – 31 March 2012

Billed as a ‘suspense-filled thriller about guilt and obsession’, Dead Guilty failed to deliver other than perhaps on the first word of its title. The description brings an expectation along the lines of Bette Davis’ chilling performance in the 1965 film, The Nanny. In this case, far from being gripped with suspense, the audience repeatedly laughed at what could better have been called Carry On Murdering.

The main problem, I feel,  is that we don’t really care that the victim is going to be murdered; the character of Julia presents us with an unvarying ironic bitterness from the beginning that does not endear her to us in any way, nor does it make us feel that she is slowly falling unwittingly into a trap. On the contrary, we’re glad someone finally gets around to doing her in and shutting up her incessant whining. The youth, Gary, is also played as far too angry and surly – presumably as a poor attempt to disguise who the killer is going to be.

The most believable character is the social worker (Emma Withers) who appears too occasionally to have much effect on the overall feel of the play. As for the murderer (Christine Ingall), a bit better direction could have brought out so much more. The lines are calling out for her to be ever bustling about at this or that and molly-coddling the victim-to-be, yet she spent most of the time just standing about. To be fair, she did liven up more toward the end as her intentions became clear enough for the blind to notice, but it was too little too late.

Back to the drawing board with this one I’m afraid.

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