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Bad Blood in need of a plot transfusion at Richmond



Review by David Munro

WHEN the curtain rises on a play entitled Bad Blood, and there is a set depicting a living room with french-windows at the rear, complete with sofas, armchairs and the paraphernalia of comfortable living, one realises you have been transported to the Never-Never land of melodrama.

For this is what Bad Blood is - an unashamed melodrama, complete with villains, misunderstood heroes and convoluted, nonsensical plots.

Such plays have to be judged on their own merits and whether they succeed or fall depends upon the skills of the protagonists in making you believe in the make-believe and mayhem on stage.

Sadly, this did not happen for me; even suspending belief, I found the amalgam of the thirties style whodunit (or in this instance who-is-it) and modern science too much for the actors and therefore for the audience.

I do not think I was alone in this belief, judging by the snoring behind me, and the continual coughing which wasn't, I felt, signalling the answers to the questions raised by the plot to the cast.

It is also somewhat disconcerting when the alleged star of the play, Gillian Taylforth, never appears in the second act for purposes of plot; and when, all through that act, you are waiting for her re-appearance, even though the playwright has ostensibly made it clear that she was gone for good.

I thought it was doubly a pity as Miss Taylforth showed, in the few chances given to her in the opening scenes, that she is not just a soap washed pretty face, but an actress who, if given the opportunities she was denied in this play, could prove herself an actress of merit.

Gary Mavers, as her husband and the victim of the onstage plotting (and the author's as well), carried the play with skill and expertise and had he received sufficient support from his other cast members (and the author!) could have made the evening a memorable one.

His character of the millionaire with an alleged illegitimate daughter is a fairly stock (even cardboard) one, but Mr Mavers made it almost believable and certainly acceptable within the framework of the plot.

I would once again like to see him in a part worthy of his abilities as he, like Miss Taylforth, proves that being a soap star does not preclude one from being a good actor as well.

As the villain of the piece, Doug Rollins ranted and raved and ate the scenery, which would have suited the play had it been set in Victorian days.

One could imagine him twirling his moustache and turning his confreres out of the house into the snow for non-payment of rent, but this did not seem quite appropriate for a corporate lawyer who is aiming to steal the hero's company.

The two juveniles (how easily this play makes one give the characters their period designations) were played by Danny Nutt and Julie Buckfield, neither of whom was quite experienced enough to paper over the cracks of the crumbling edifice of a plot.

To be fair, I can't think of any other actor or actress who could have achieved this, as the twists in the plot were so unbelievable as to reduce their characters to ciphers rather than people.

I may be doing the author an injustice. Perhaps he meant his play to be a parody of a pre-war drawing room drama rather than the travesty that was portrayed on the stage of Richmond Theatre.

If so, I must give him marks for trying, but nothing for achievement. These must go to players, who deserve them for salvaging what was salvageable from the wreck.

Or should those marks go to Roger Redfearn, the director, who did the best he could with the material to hand. I remember, with pleasure, his Song of Singapore and wondered, perhaps, if he had gone a bit more OTT on this piece, it would have been as enjoyable.

The playbills indicate this play is unsuitable for children. I agree - it could put them off going to the theatre for life, which is not fair to Miss Taylforth, Mr Mavers and company, who did their best to counteract the bad blood that the author had created between him and the audience.

Bad Blood by Richard Stockwell, Directed by Roger Redfearn, Designed by Martin Johns, Lighting Design by Nick Richings. WITH: Gillian Taylforth, Gary Mavers, Doug Rollins, Danny Hutt, Julie Beckwith. Produced by Ambassadors Theatre Group & JAM Productions Ltd, in association with Theatre Royal, Windsor and Churchill Theatre, Bromley at Richmond Theatre, The Little Green, Richmond, Surrey. Tickets 020 8940 0088.

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