Rehearsal for Murder isn’t your typical murder mystery, whilst it has all the essential components, there are a series of genuinely unexpected twists and turns. Bill Kenwright’s production performed by The Classic Thriller Theatre Company is bursting with well-known actors both from the stage and the screen.
Telling the story of a group of people in the theatre industry, there are a variety of distinct personalities within the performance. From eccentric producers to self-centered actors, there are a multitude of characters to get to grips with.
Opening on a dark and dingy stage, we are introduced to playwrite Alex Dennison (Alex Ferns), who is back on stage at the theatre that his play opened a year and a half earlier. Haunted by that night, he is still struggling to come to terms with the fact his leading lady (and fiancé) commit suicide straight after the performance.
Still certain it wasn’t suicide, he embarks on a mission to discover his fiancé’s killer. Ferns gives a compelling performance as playwrite Alex, as he is highly engaging with his storytelling as he takes us back through the tragedy of that night. The playwrite invites them to the theatre for a reunion, but most importantly to act out the new play he has written. Little do they know that he is actually foiling a plan to get them to act out his suspicions, as he places them all in the position of the murderer, to see who cracks under pressure.
Despite being killed fairly early on; his fiancé Monica, the melodramatic actress, is captured well by Susie Amy. Although her tone felt slightly monotonous, causing her performance to fall slightly flat. She appears on stage frequently during the reenactment scenes in a shadow-esque manner, but doesn’t provide much flavour.
Sophie Powles’s performance as the rather whiny and clichéd actress Karen Daniels is superb. As she transforms throughout the play, she returns to their reunion as a well-spoken and sophisticated lady – providing excellently witty one-liners. This is also echoed in Anita Harris’ performance as the elegantly fabulous producer Bella.
Whilst the performances aren’t of the highest standard, the production itself flows and the story is engaging. With the assistance of eerie music and plummeting darkness, you are truly kept on the edge of your seat. Not to mention the shocking reveal of the murderer – which no one would have seen coming.
On at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday the 15th of October, tickets can be found here.