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Muddy reviews: Rehearsal for Murder, Worthing

If you’ve ever enjoyed reruns of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote you might want to check out Rehearsal for Murder, a traditional whodunnit penned by the same team and on at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre this week.

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I was less fond of Murder, She Wrote (I mean how many murders can happen around one woman before all her friends and aquaintances have either been bumped off or run for the hills), but I did love Columbo with his scruffy mac and his ‘one more thing…’ killer questions.

The action for Rehearsal for Murder is set backstage in a London theatre. The device of a play to catch a killer is a ruse that dates back to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and it’s what playwright Alex Dennison has in mind when he calls together the actors, director and producer who were present the night his fiancée, a famous actress, died in suspicious circumstances.

Pretty soon it’s clear the draft of a play he has them rehearsing, one year to the day of his fiancée’s demise, bears an uncanny resemblance to real life events with uncomfortable truths and Alex’s own suspicions thrown in.

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I thought with just one, albeit realistic, set that the action might seem a bit static but the lighting (some of which appears right over the stage as a prop) is used to create the illusion of flashbacks – you can tell it was originally a TV Movie. Things heat up in the second act with Alex getting increasingly desperate to out the killer. There are a few gentle laughs too, despite the subject matter, around actors’ egos and Alex’s new assistant from Wales who’s scared of London.

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Rehearsal for Murder is not just a ‘whodunnit’ but a ‘who is that?’ With a host of familiar TV faces in the cast.
Playwright Alex Dennison is played comfortably by Alex Ferns, in a rather more sympathetic role than wife beater Trevor Morgan who he played in Eastenders, while his fiancé is played by Susie Amy – Chardonnay from Footballer’s Wives. Other cast members include Gary Mavers from Peak Practice, Casualty and Emmerdale and Anita Harris from heaps of things dating back to the Carry On films.

Anita Harris was natural on stage, as you’d expect for a performer of her long-standing and my, what great legs she’s got for a woman of any age, but she’s over 70, yes really. Her perfect pins inspired me to Google that!

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There are a few TV crime clichés in the play …the note left in the typewriter, the tearful confession… but there are also a few frights – I nearly jumped clean out my seat at one point – and a twist I didn’t see coming.

It’s not ground-breaking drama, it’s comfortable Sunday teatime TV sort of viewing and just the sort of thing to watch with a bag of Maltesers and a red wine (they do go, honest!) on a wet week in the lead up to Halloween.

Rehearsal for Murder is on at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre, Union Place, Worthing, BN11 1LG, 01903 206 206 worthingtheatres.co.uk until Sat 22 Oct. Adults tickets cost from £24.50 (concessions 22.50, students £10).

Love theatre? Don’t forget to enter my comp to win top tickets for Breakfast At Tiffany’s at Brighton’s Theatre Royal next week.

Find more ideas here

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