A cracking case of murder

Write Me a Murder by Frederick Knott at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.It takes you right back to the Fifties when you could buy a very nice house for a couple of grand, people knew their place, coppers touched their forelocks and Frederick Knott was writing thrillers that took the world by the throat.

David Henshall

Write Me a Murder by Frederick Knott at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.

It takes you right back to the Fifties when you could buy a very nice house for a couple of grand, people knew their place, coppers touched their forelocks and Frederick Knott was writing thrillers that took the world by the throat.

This one is every bit as clever as his more famous plays, Dial M For Murder and Wait Until Dark with a cunning and amusing twist in the tail. Director Ian Dickens has given it the full monty with a cast of telly stars and a cracking set that must take an army to erect.


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Rodingham Manor is awash with nice pieces of furniture and portraits of the family going back 500 years but, sadly, his lordship is upstairs breathing his last. In the drawing room his two sons are meeting for the first time in 15 years - since David the younger one was thrown out with her ladyship to live in very reduced circumstances. Clive, the heir to the title, stayed in the sort of luxury that David envies very much.

Clive is off to America to marry an heiress and will sell the manor and its 400 acres to Charles Sturrock, a jumped-up local businessman and a nasty piece of work, for a paltry �50,000 the moment dad pops his clogs. Sturrock will wreck the area by building on the land and David is appalled but rather fancies Sturrock's wife Julie.

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David is a modestly successful writer of fiction and Julie is a frustrated writer of short stories and he gets talked into helping her write a tale that could be entered in the big newspaper competition. So together they pen a murder story, working out every detail to see that nothing can go wrong. Then they come to the conclusion that it could be used to bump off her husband. But will they do it?

It's a clever bit of casting that brings together Paul Opapic (Clive), Christopher Villiers (David) and Leslie Grantham (Sturrock) all of whom are noted telly baddies and all of whom seem quietly capable of a killing in this Knott twister loaded with clever and frequent red herrings.

Clive goes off to his US wedding and we know he'll be back; then suddenly, we are told Sturrock has been killed in an accident but you can't have your star name bumped off in the first act can you? And, with David and Julie (Maxine Gregory) behaving very strangely, we know something is going to surprise us soon. But only a cad would let on what it is.

It's all good gripping stuff that keeps us guessing, with even the incidental music carrying us back in time - the Archers theme filling us full of the countryside at quiet moments and, as the excitement mounts, we are spurred by the galloping notes that in the 1950s announced the arrival of Dick Barton, Special Agent on the wireless.

David Henshall.

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