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Anthony Shaffer’s Murderer Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Murderer by Anthony ShafferMurder dramas are loved by the British public. Agatha Christie is the world’s bestselling novelist (outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare) viewing figures for Poirot, Midsummer Murders and Lynda la Plant dramas are always sky-high, conspiracy theories a plenty regarding whom exactly Jack the Ripper was exist, and, as a nation we are all intrigued by the likes of Fred West, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.  It is therefore only right that the theatrical world has its own Crime and Murder specialist, for me this is Anthony Shaffer.

Anthony Shaffer, a Barrister by trade, penned some of the world’s most loved murder/thriller plays, screen plays and novels. Amongst these is  “Murderer” a dark comedic thriller that explores the obsession with Murder!  In the intimate venue of Upstairs at the Gate House Theatre, close to the actual burial ground of Shaffer in Highgate East Cemetery, the audience is transported back to 1970s Dorset.

As an audience we are literally sat in Norman Bartholomew’s (the protagonist’s, living room) we are presented with a home full of contemporary artefacts, modern art, books, cutting edge furniture and of course a drinks cabinet in the shape of a globe! The 70s music starts and we observe a trendy middle class and arty couple flirt and dance around the living room. We are in the 70s there is no doubt, the music is playing, there is cheeky drinking and merriment in this household.

The performance starts fantastically, Bradley Clarkson’s portrayal of the aspiring murderer Norman is beautifully executed. Clarkson has a very difficult task to keep an audience entertainment for the first 15 or so minutes of the play without being able to use any dialogue. We watch this clean freak who likes everything in its place, (takes a moment to plump cushions and put the magazines away) experience a lexicon of emotions whilst he drugs, strangles, and then proceeds to take his lover to the bathroom to perform Uxoricide.

As an audience there is a sense of uncertainly, a nervousness about whether we should be laughing or not as we voyeuristically observe Norman cruelly take a scarf and strangles someone whom we thought he loved in front of us.  Soon though we find ourselves laughing loudly “ if you want to get away with spousal disposal, you have to make the body unrecognisable!” we hear Norman state as he goes on to dissemble and dispose of the body via meat cleaver, axe, hacksaw and a number of power tools!

Maybe an early motivation for programmes like Dexter and films like American Psycho, Tim Frost has taken the text and created a very bloody and gruesome situation and made his audience laugh at it!

Bradley Clarkson delivers a very strong controlled performance, his comedic timing is spot on and he most certainly takes the audience on his journey – he wants to experience murder at its most intimate, he after all feels that murder is art! Bradley easily slips in and out of various characters as we watch him live out his dreams of murder over the space of one evening, we laugh with him and he really does become that enigmatic character that we can’t help but love, even though it is quite clear that he is psychologically disturbed.

All four cast members gave great performances, however, Bradley Clarkson (Norman Bartholomew) and Andrew Ashford (Sgt Stenning) were in a different league. These two were faultless in my opinion. The scenes they have together flow beautifully, they play very well off each other and create a magic that must be seen.

I hesitate to give any plot details away and I beg you not to look up the plot synopsis before you go and see this show. Experience it raw with all its blood and glory!  Bradley Clarkson is definitely an actor to keep an eye on for future productions

Review by Faye Stockley


Murderer by Anthony Shaffer
Director – Tim Frost
Set Designer – Phil Lindley
Lighting Designer – Les Broughton
Costume Designer – Alison Jacobson

Norman Bartholomew is a painter obsessed by notorious murders from the past. Now he hopes to perform the perfect crime of his own…… Twists and turns abound in this tale of murder and revenge from the writer of Sleuth and The Wicker Man.

Cast:  Andrew Ashford, Bradley Clarkson, Abby Forknall and Zoe Teverson

Evening performances at 7.30pm
Sunday matinees at 4pm

14th March to 13th April:
Tues/Wed/Sun £14 (£12 conc), Thur/Fri/Sat £16 (£14 conc)
15th – 20th April:
Tues/Wed £16 (£14 conc), Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun £18 (£16 conc)

BOX OFFICE 020 8340 3488

Wednesday 19th March 2014


  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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