If a mystery’s success is measured by its ability to lead viewers up the garden path, then Rehearsal for Murder is worthy of an Oscar.
The production at Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre this week has everything going for it - a shoal of star names, a well-written script and an eye-catching set.
Alex Ferns (famed for his role as nasty Trevor Morgan in EastEnders) heads the cast as a playwright hellbent on finding out who killed his fiancee a year after she died.
The play opens with the character in a state of nervous agitation, pacing across the stage, rattling out lines so fast that it’s hard to catch every word. In contrast, the final scene sees him sitting in a chair, quiet, contemplative, bathed in a pool of light.
In between, the writer hatches a plot to unmask his fiancee’s killer by devising a drama in which the characters and scenarios bear uncanny resemblance to those surrounding his love before she died. Footballers’ Wives star Susie Amy plays the glamorous fiancee, an actress who hovers in the shadows like a ghost or takes centre stage in flashbacks .
The stellar cast includes Anita Harris as sophisticated producer, Gary Mavers as director and Mark Wynter as a vain actor.
The simmering tension of the play explodes in a volley of gunshots, signalling a dramatic shift in the story. Any hunches the audience have about who killed the actress on the night her new show bombed will be blown to smithereens.
The script highlights the headaches of a first-night performance but Monday’s opening went without a hitch, apart from a stage curtain which failed to drop its full length at the interval. Rehearsal for Murder is at the Pomegranate until July 30.