Review: Denys Edwards Players keep the audience guessing in thriller Dead Reckoning

Denys Edwards Players production of iDead Reckoning. Standing at the back, left to right,  Alisdair Low, John Castell . Seated left to right Janet Black, Steve Carter.
Denys Edwards Players production of iDead Reckoning. Standing at the back, left to right, Alisdair Low, John Castell . Seated left to right Janet Black, Steve Carter.

“Art is long, life is short” is one of many memorable lines in Eric Chappell’s thriller Dead Reckoning.

This cleverly devised spine-chiller is brought to the stage by Denys Edwards Players who have long entertained theatregoers with their art.

It is 70 years since the group was officially named and to cap this milestone year, playwright Eric will be attending a performance tomorrow (Friday, November 27).

This edgy drama at Sheffield’s Library Theatre is a departure for the writer who is best known for scripting TV comedies such as Rising Damp and Duty Free.

It’s a thought-provoking piece, challenging the audience to think about the way in which justice is meted out and how behaviour in public has deteriorated.

The plot revolves around the murder of an artist’s first wife and the release from jail of the man convicted of killing her.

None of the characters are quite what they seem in this corkscrew thriller.

Two men turn up under assumed aliases, one appears to be strangled just before the interval curtain, the other is later stabbed although there is no sign of blood.

John Castell plays calm, calculating Todd who turns up out of the blue with a plan to bump off the killer in exchange for £10,000.

In contrast, Steve Carter’s portrayal of tortured artist Tony is one of agitated anxiety, heightened by copious amounts of wine.

Company newcomer Janet Black makes an admirable debut playing Tony’s former mistress Megan, now married to him, who is living in the shadow of his first wife.

Alisdair Lowe swaggers around stage like a fearless, cocky East End gangster in his role as the ex-con Slater.

Amateur detectives among the first-night audience yesterday (Wednesday) were kept busy trying to suss out the identity of the killer last night as was the prompt who had to feed lines on several occasions.

Dead Reckoning, directed by John Atkinson, is running until Saturday, November 28. Performances are at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm.