Review: A Judgement in Stone at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre by Lara Wadey

Building on the phenomenal decade-long success of The Agatha Christie Company, Bill Kenwright presents a new production adapted from one of the most celebrated works of the writer often hailed as the successor to Agatha Christie.

I’ve not read any of Ruth Rendell’s books, but who doesn’t like a thriller. I was looking forward to an evening with the question of ‘Who done it?’ running through my mind.

The story is set back in 1978 at the home of the Coverdale family at Lowfield Hall. The curtain rises on Eunice Parchman played by Sophie Ward, a woman who turns out to be the family housekeeper. It’s clear from the start that she finds life hard and struggles to fit in. Little did they know that after hiring what seemed the perfect house keeper, it would turn into a murder of a family of four on Valentine’s Day.

Although staged in one room, the story bounces back and forth from the current day with Detective Superintendent Vetch played by Andrew Lancel and Detective Sergeant Challoner played by Ben Nealon trying to figure out what happened; as well as taking us back to the time of the 9 months leading up to the murders taking place. The scenes went back and forth effortlessly, and not once was I confused as I followed the play.

As the play went on we soon got to know the characters and the small number of suspects, but rather than a ‘Whodunit?’ play, I would say this was more of a ‘Why did they do it?’ play.

Eunice Parchman (Sophie Ward) came across as timid and shy, yet her body language spoke volumes. All the characters, had strong personalities and we soon got to know just how much as the play unfolded. The father, George Coverdale (Mark Wynter), was a strong man, married to his second wife Jacqui Coverdale (Rosie Thomson) who was a very lively soul and between them they had two children Melinda (Jennifer Sims) and Giles Coverdale (Joshua Price).

It was a pleasant surprise to see Antony Costa playing a delinquent gardener Rodge Meadows but one of my favorite characters has to be the postman’s wife Joan Smith (Deborah Grant) who although might have had a shady past has a new devotion to the church – the scene where she was singing and dancing on the table was simply comical!

This might not be one of my favorite plays, but it captured my attention from beginning to end. According to the lady behind me, I was laughing most of the way through, so it must have done something right.

I heard a few people say they preferred the second act, but I actually preferred the first where we got to know the characters. I would have liked it better if there had been a few more twists and turns to keep me guessing all along whodunit? And I was also most disappointed when we found out who it was, and even more so when we found out the reason why.

Fans of Rendell’s murder mysteries would probably embrace this staging far more than me, and although I enjoyed the evening, it was a little sluggish to gain a newbie fan.

A Judgement in the Stone runs until Saturday 3rd June 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available fromhttp://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

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