By Jean Hill
THE play, ‘A Judgement in Stone’ has been adapted from a classic 1977 Ruth Rendell novel. The story explores class distinction, and attitudes, in an affluent household, where there are ensuing conflicts and tensions between staff and the Coverdale family.
The Classic Thriller Theatre Company, with Bill Kenwright as producer, have been touring with a stage adaptation, written by Simon Brett and Antony Lampard. Roy Marsden has directed a stellar cast. It was great to see Shirley Anne Field shine in a minor role as Eva Baalham, a cleaner with attitude. Sophie Ward is barely recognisable as Eunice Parchman, a down-trodden housekeeper, which is a pivotal role. She appears in every scene, and delivers an enigmatic, accomplished performance. Robert Duncan gives a solid performance as the head of the Coverdale family, a seemingly beneficent man, with controlling and judgemental undertones. Character plays a key part in the ensuing tragedy. For me, Deborah Grant overplays her role a little, as post mistress, religious zealot, and screamingly obvious ‘wacky’ character. There needs to be some subtle nuances in order to understand the complex motivations at work, and an underlying, moving love story. Pamela Dwyer, as daughter of the family, delivers a strong performance as a university student with far more on her mind than just getting good grades. There are antics ‘below-stairs’ and a family juggling uneasy alliances, and limited because of tunnel vision. And so the tension steadily builds up to a tragic climax.
Julie Godfrey is the set designer and she and her team have beautifully re-created the timbre and timber of a fine country manor. It is a backdrop that conveys comfort, rich culture, and creates the impression of book-cases full of first editions. It is a murder mystery that is driven by misplaced philanthropy, class divides, and pride and shame.
A Judgement in Stone is at the Floral Pavilion until 11th Novemeber
Floral Pavilion: 0151 6660000