Her career spanning 50 years, award-winning Ruth Rendell is one of Britain’s best known crime writers, Inspector Wexford being her star attraction. Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone was filmed twice (under different names) and now this story of deceit and desperation comes to The Playhouse, Weston, under the direction of Roy Marsden.
A Bill Kenwright production, A Judgement in Stone builds upon the success of The Agatha Christie Theatre Company to bring us a murder mystery set in the 1970s that questions human behaviour, exploring how our characters are formed and how personal circumstances can lead to tragic consequences.
Andrew Lancel is a sultry Detective Superintendent Vetch, sent up to the English countryside to solve the murder of the well-to-do Coverdales, a family who have recently employed the timid outsider Eunice Parchman (Sophie Ward) as housekeeper. Eunice is hiding something … but what? She forms a friendship with Joan Smith (Deborah Gant), a whirlwind of a woman, and a commoner to boot, despised by Mr Coverdale, in particular. Cant and Ward are an at once an unlikely but perfectly understandable couple in a play that draws on class and status and feeling very, very Olde England. And old-fashioned. This is a tale of the downtrodden and the wealthy – but who is victim? The reason for the murders is not one that sits comfortably either – I reckon I could find better justification for a killing spree among the everyday people around me.
Regulars to murder mysteries at the Playhouse, Weston, may well recognise the stately home-like set, from the bulging book shelves to the chandelier. It does exactly what it needs to in a performance that is entertaining and story-led.
If you like murder mysteries and can transport yourself to a way of life that doesn’t chime with modern day UK, then go and see it. I placed myself in another, fortunately changed, world and really rather enjoyed it.
A Judgement in Stone runs at The Playhouse, Weston until Saturday 15th April