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REVIEW: Murder in the Dark at Cambridge Art Theatre

As horror shows go, this is quite a friendly one.

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Susie Blake is magnificent in this melodrama. She plays an elderly Yorkshire farmer who welcomes a carload of people to her remote cottage after a car crash on a dark night. To their horror, on New Year’s Eve, they are stuck in a grim old building with no Wi-Fi, no telephone and extremely dodgy electricity.

It flashes on and off – the television turns itself on in sudden blasts. The power supply, as she says: “Has a mind of its own.”

Blake’s character Mrs Bateman carries the comedy in the play and has immaculate timing. She is as cheerful as her reluctant guests are dismayed.

Murder in the Dark is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 10. CREDIT: Pamela Raith Photography

Murder in the Dark is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 10. CREDIT: Pamela Raith Photography

They have been at a funeral that day and now they find there are no trains, no taxis, and no way back to London for the various New Year’s Eve parties and gigs they need to get to. It’s a classic murder mystery scenario. A group of people marooned.

Tom Chambers is exquisitely neurotic as Danny, an aging pop star. He was the one driving the car. Once he had the world at his feet.

But now he is broke, alcoholic and rather lonely – and fiercely insecure about his much younger girlfriend played with panache by Laura White. Jonny Green gives a natural and moving performance as Danny’s abandoned son.

Murder in the Dark is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 10. CREDIT: Pamela Raith Photography

Murder in the Dark is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 10. CREDIT: Pamela Raith Photography

Rebecca Charles and Owen Oakeshott are convincing and adroit as Danny’s estranged wife and his alienated brother. Together, they are a dysfunctional family trapped in a place that time has forgotten.

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Simon Kenny has created a bleak set complete with a huge analogue tv and an outside loo, which appears on stage as if by magic.

The writer Torben Betts tells us in the programme that having been given the title of the play by the Original Theatre Company, he had only a weekend to produce an idea and wrote the play in a few weeks.

For most of the play, it shows. Brilliant as the performances are, the eclectic elements of the plot seem to be a compendium of these we have loved.

Murder in the Dark is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 10. CREDIT: Pamela Raith Photography

Murder in the Dark is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 10. CREDIT: Pamela Raith Photography

That is until the end when somehow it all knits together and is cleverer than one might have guessed.

As horror shows go, this is quite a friendly one.

No sudden bangs that send you jumping out of your seat but great performances and an intriguing night at the theatre.

Murder in the Dark is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 10.

 

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