“The Case of The Frightened Lady” brings classic vintage crime to The King’s Theatre Edinburgh stage for one week only (Monday 26 to Saturday 31 March) and, as always, the King’s Theatre audience responds to a good old fashioned “MURDER” by turning out in large numbers and filling the theatre.
This production from Bill Kenwright/The Classic Thriller Company takes us back to 1932 and one of the last works of one of the most prolific and successful writers of the 20th century – Edgar Wallace (1 April 1875 – 10 February 1932). With a massive catalogue of work to his name covering novels, short stories, film scripts and plays, “The Case of The Frightened Lady” originally written in 1931 has already seen film and screen adaptations, and this production is a worthy addition to what has gone before and it easy to see how Edgar Wallace was acknowleged as the “The King of the detective thriller” setting the format for so many that came after him (including Agatha Christie).
Director Roy Marsden has with this new adaptation by Antony Lampard given us a classic piece of stage theatre, and the one room format of the set has the illusion of looking as solid as the ancestral family that Lady Lebanon (Rula Lenska ) is determined to protect at any cost. Like the set though, the family strength and solidity is just that, an illusion, and when Chief Superintendent Tanner (Gray O’Brien) is called in to investigate a ruthless murder at Mark’s Priory, an ancestral dynasty begins to crumble.
As well as Rula Lenska and Gray O’Brien, the cast list for this production will be familiar to many audiences from their work in many of television and the stage’s most popular productions over the years.
Dr Amersham - Denis Lill
Detective Sergeant Totti - Charlie Clements
Kelver - Philip Lowrie
Isla Crane - April Pearson
Lord Lebanon- Ben Nealon
Gilder - Glenn Carter
Brook - Callum Coates
Mrs Tilling - Rosie Thomson
Mr Tilling - Owen Oldroyd
Studd – Joshua Wichard
Any production like this one is a collective endeavour and it is unfair to pick any one performance out against others, but everyone on stage seems to be having a lot of fun here as clichéd, at times stiff, and for the most part over the top performances are everywhere from everyone. Normally for me this would be a big negative, but here it all works perfectly in creating that illusion of how we all imagine a murder mystery in a large 1930s house complete with upper class aristocracy and servants belonging to a long gone world. There is a charm to this performance that simply would not work if removed from its period setting. This is classic “politely British” period murder, and with not even the hint of crudity in language or performance, perfect theatre for anyone from any age group, simply an old fashioned family night out at the theatre.
This production has everything that we have come to expect from “The Classic Thriller Company” – good sets, attention to period costume detail and design (Julie Godfrey), good scripts and of course, a cast with the experience to make everything on stage look so murderously easy.
Review by Tom King