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Review of Murder in the Dark at Richmond Theatre 2024

As with The Mousetrap, which has run for more than 70 years, audiences for Torben Betts’ new play Murder in the Dark are urged to spread the word but not the spoilers. With that exhortation in mind, this reviewer will note only that audiences might not be quite so slow on the uptake as the playwright and producers seem to think they will.

Murder in the Dark - Pamela Raith Photography.
Murder in the Dark – Pamela Raith Photography.

The curtain rises on a spacious cabin in the woods where two people, Danny and Sarah, are sheltering after their car crashed on their way back from a funeral. The cabin belongs to a Mrs Bateman – an unsurprisingly outstanding Susie Blake – and the couple are played by Tom Chambers and Laura White: as failed pop star Danny, the herky-jerky Chambers is – frankly – hammy, but White is excellent despite having little to work with. Other characters come and go but Murder in the Dark rests on the three central performances and ultimately they and the rest of the cast are defeated by the weaknesses of Betts’ script and Philip Franks’ rather old-fashioned direction, not helped by a tiresomely overbearing score and a set that is neither as robust nor as clever as it needs to be.

Betts is a fine playwright but it isn’t easy to write a “spine-chilling ghost story, turned psychological thriller”, which Murder in the Dark purports to be. The script has to be freighted with original twists and turns, and it has to deliver a satisfying conclusion that ties up all the loose ends and explains everything that has gone before. A good example is the 2010 stage play Ghost Stories – with which Murder in the Dark has a truly surprisingly amount in common. Similarities are of course not automatically a bad thing. After all, the structure and jump scares of Ghost Stories were hardly original theatre. And in any case, the principal reasons for the play’s success were the neatness of Dyson and Nyman’s script – in which everything made sense when viewed in retrospect – and the quality of the production, in terms of its director and cast and above all its technical design from the ingenious sets through to the sound and lighting effects. Unfortunately, all of those things are deficient in Murder in the Dark, which amounts to little more than an over-long episode of the BBC’s anthology series Inside No. 9.

3 Star Review

Review by Louis Mazzini

New Year’s Eve. A car crash on a lonely road brings famous but troubled singer Danny Sierra and his extended family to an isolated holiday cottage in rural England. From the moment they arrive, a sequence of inexplicable events begin to occur… and then the lights go out.

This thrilling new ghost story by acclaimed writer Torben Betts will thrust you into darkness and have you on the edge of your seats until the final chilling twist.

Are you brave enough for Murder in The Dark?
Starring TV and stage favourite Tom Chambers (Holby City, Casualty, Waterloo Road, Father Brown, Strictly Come Dancing champion) and produced by the award-winning Original Theatre (The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie, Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art).

“An uncommonly talented playwright” Time Out on Torben Betts

Age Guidance 14+

Murder in the Dark is at Richmond Theatre from Tuesday 19th March to Saturday 23rd March 2024.

View all shows booking now at Richmond Theatre.

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