I’m always surprised by the Lichfield Players’ knack of finding little known theatrical gems, dusting them off and polishing them up so they look fresh on the market for their dedicated audiences. With this intriguing drama they’ve definitely done it again.
For in this Brian Clemens thriller almost nothing is what it appears to be. As the play begins, the long sunny days of pre-war rural Provence seem the ideal setting for the rural idyll of Peter, played by Chris Stanley on fine form and Suzy, Jenna James here powerfully convincing as his touchingly vulnerable young love.
But there are secrets and unanswered questions everywhere. Who is Josef, their seemingly half-witted peasant neighbour, here superbly characterised by Win Churchill in this demanding role. Why is Peter so wary? What fears and apprehensions have led to Suzy’s unhappiness? And against a background of European tension fuelled by the rise of Nazi Germany, is anyone safe, even here, although seemingly so far out of the world?
With the arrival of an inquisitive tourist (David Stonehouse in a subtle role) the plot begins to unravel. Now the play becomes a nail-biting thriller, and a seemingly placid first half, albeit with dark hints and suggestions, ratchets in the second into a series of revelations of international import.
Aided by some clever and atmospheric lighting effects plus a beautifully dressed set with everything a Provencal farmhouse should have including the kitchen sink this cast and crew bring off an unusual and enjoyably accomplished evening.
Strictly Murder runs in the Garrick Studio until November 13. For tickets phone the box office on 01543 412121, or go online at www.lichfieldgarrick.com.