Review: Rehearsal For Murder, The Floral Pavilion, New Brighton: 14th – 19th March 2016

BILL KENWRIGHT has brought The Classic Thriller Theatre Company and its first production REHEARSAL FOR MURDER to the Floral Pavilion, This murder mystery was penned by the legendary writing team Richard Levinson and William Link, the creators of award-winning and epic TV detective series Columbo and it has been adapted, and carefully crafted, for the stage by David Rogers. The plot sounds straight-forward, but there are many novel twists and turns before the murderer is unmasked. Playwright Alex Dennison is left heartbroken when the woman he is about to marry, leading lady Monica Welles is found dead from an apparent suicide, after the opening night of her stage debut. The ‘flash back’ to the tragedy is eerily well done. A year on, Alex assembles the same cast and crew in the same theatre, for a reading of his new play. Alex believes Monica was murdered and his new play is a devious cat-and-mouse chase to uncover her killer. And everyone is a player (under suspicion). The production stars ROBERT DAWS (Poldark, The Royal and Outside Edge), his co-star from The Royal AMY ROBBINS (Casualty, Blood Brothers) and cast members of the Agatha Christie Theatre Company SUSAN PENHALIGON (Bouquet of Barbed Wire, A Fine Romance), ROBERT DUNCAN (Drop The Dead Donkey, Go Back For Murder) and BEN NEALON (Soldier Soldier, Black Coffee). Joining them are STEVEN PINDER (Brookside) and LUCY DIXON (Waterloo Road, Hollyoaks). It’s a stellar cast. The stage is brilliantly deployed to switch from a theatre on opening night, to the leading lady’s apartment, where she is hosting a post-show party. It’s all done with a few moveable props: the set boasts some beautiful chandeliers for subtle lighting, some period furniture and a classic typewriter: it’s a great backdrop for the mounting tension. It’s live theatre: it goes off with a bang. Robert Daws, as Alex Dennison, puts in a great central performance, and is totally convincing as a grieving lover, haunted by his loss. It’s a period piece. It’s done with great style: all the cast impress, and Amy Robbins, as Monica Welles, conveys complex emotions: part diva, part woman madly in love, part frightened woman with a secret, and she does it all with great panache. I was lucky enough to see this production with Nigel Smith, a reviewer for The Stage and Good News: he enjoyed the performance, and was great company. Still time to book: Review by Jean Hill Box Office: 0151 666 0000 www.floralpavilion.com   .