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Thriller provides a Sterling piece of work from author



Review by David Munro

FRAMED (or Framed – Trust No-One to give it its full title) is a marvellous period piece.

It could have been produced in the Thirties - haunted house, mysterious goings on, characters who are not what they seem, etc.

The only touch of modernity is that instead of hidden jewels, the motive for the mayhem and murder is drugs.

There is even an archetypal local yokel – what would have been, and could still be, the Gordon Harker part. All this is somewhat surprising since the author, Martin Sterling, was only born in 1962 when the spooky thriller was out of vogue, lingering on only in The Mousetrap.

Thrillers are, by their very nature, hard pieces to review if the author's plot twists and turns are to be concealed from future audiences. Suffice it to say that Framed takes place in an Elizabethan cottage haunted by the ghost of a murdered American airman to which two of the characters adjourn for a dirty weekend.

Needless to say, as the action of the play spans the hours between 8pm and 10.30pm nothing sexually untoward occurs, although quite a lot else does, most of which is quite entertaining if not spine-chilling.

Mr Sterling takes perhaps a little too long in the first act to set his scene, as it comprises mainly of rather dull chit-chat between Sam (Vincenzo Pelligrino) and his rather hysterical girlfriend, Judy (Lucy Benjamin).

There is a bit too much of the 'you don’t trust me – Yes I do' type of dialogue, but when the action begins, one is pleasurably gripped and you start to enjoy guessing just who is what and why they are there.

This occurs toward the end of the first act when the owner of the house, Annie, a delightfully incisive performance by Sarah Berger, arrives unexpectedly and, within a few minutes and a couple of pages of dialogue, pushes the plot forward with some vigour.

Another late arrival is Thomas Craig as Judy’s ex-husband on whose shoulders the obligatory exposition speech, when All-Is-Revealed at the end of the second act falls.

Unfortunately, they are not quite broad enough and I was reminded, I am afraid, of his performance as Tommy, the mindless mechanic in Coronation Street which he still seemed to be playing and which did not suit the character as written.

Apart from Mr Craig the rest of the cast served their author well, especially Gordon Harker – sorry - Graham Kent - as Tar, the sinister yokel, who brought the right atmosphere to his part without going over the top, and seemed to be enjoying every minute of it – as well he might.

Roger Redfern’s unobtrusive direction kept the pace up and created a semblance of believability in the plot, while Michael Holt’s modernised, low-beamed Elizabethan interior had just the right atmosphere and was a good frame for the goings-on.

In short, it was an entertaining and pleasurable evening, nothing great, but if you enjoy the equally mindless Midsomer Murders-type of Sunday evening TV mystery you will have a good night out with Framed.

I know I did, although I guessed the twist before the end of the first act - see if you can beat me to it!

Even if you do, it will not spoil your evening as Mr Stirling has quite a few cards up his sleeve before the final curtain to keep you on the edge of your seat and, in the main, a very good cast to deal them.

I look forward to Mr Stirling’s next play as this one was a very good debut for him as a popular dramatist; in fact, if you will forgive the pun, a 'Stirling' piece of work..

Framed, by Martin Sterling.
Directed by Roger Redfern.
Designer – Michael Holt.
Lighting – Jack Thompson.
Sound – Ed Brimley.
CAST: Thomas Craig; Lucy Benjamin; Vincenzo Pelegrino; Sarah Berger; Graham Kent.

Presented by Nick Brooke Ltd in Association with Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 IQJ.
Mon, May 30 – Sat, June 4, 2005
Evenings 7.45pm
Matinees Wed. & Sat. 2.30pm.
Box Office: 0870 060 6651

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