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
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;
Presented by Nick Brooke Ltd in Association with Churchill
Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 IQJ.
Mon, May 30 – Sat, June 4, 2005
Matinees Wed. & Sat. 2.30pm.
Box Office: 0870 060 6651