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A Judgement in Stone 

Malvern Theatres has put on a few plays over the years from the Agatha Christie Theatre Company. They seem to have run out of Agatha Christies plays to produce, however (which surprises me somewhat as she wrote dozens of books), and have now metamorphosed into the Classic Thriller Theatre Company. Their first production in this reincarnation is A Judgement in Stone, based on the psychological thriller by Ruth Rendell. I had a free afternoon on Saturday so took myself along to the matinee on yet another standby ticket. I’ve not read the book, so I can’t comment on how faithful the adaptation was. But as a play, I thought it worked pretty well.

It was set in the late 1970s, in the wood-panelled sitting room of a wealthy couple and their family. They have recently employed a socially awkward but hard-working housekeeper, who turns out to have a shameful secret she is desperate to keep hidden. The action keeps switching between the aftermath of the family’s grisly murder, with two detectives trying to piece together what went on, and flashbacks showing us the events unfolding and building inexorably towards murder. 

The production was a bit pedestrian, but good of its type. The theatre was pretty much full, with at least three coach parties from across the West Midlands. I worked out the who-dunnit and why-did-they-do-it about half an hour before the detectives did, despite a number of red herrings which Agatha Christie herself would have been proud of.

There was one unintentionally funny bit in the middle of the second act. The two detectives were discussing some clue or other, when suddenly there was a very large BANG from the loudspeaker to one side of the stage. Everyone in the audience jumped – as did the actors who were clearly not expecting it! They then got the giggles and tried manfully to keep going despite corpsing, as the audience also dissolved into relieved laughter. I think the theatre will have had a bit of a repair job to do before the evening performance!

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