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REVIEW: Murder in the Dark (UK Tour)

27 March 2024

Pavilion Theatre Royal, Glasgow

⭐⭐⭐


Murder in the Dark by Torben Betts starring Tom Chambers, Susie Blake and Laura White.

Following a car accident on New Years Eve, ex Boy-Band singer Danny and his family find shelter at an isolated farmhouse.


"From the moment they arrive, a sequence of inexplicable events begins to occur… and then the lights go out."


This new play from acclaimed writer Torben Betts feeds into the currently popularity for dark culture and arts. From the ubiquitous true crime podcasts to horror franchises at the cinema and even ghost stories broadcast on prime time TV at Christmas, there is no decline in our appetite for macabre and supernatural entertainment at present.


The success of long running theatre productions such as The Woman in Black as well as brand new shows like 2:22 A Ghost Story and Stranger Things: The First Shadow prove that there is also a place for horror and thrillers on the stage. I am a huge fan of the genre and excited by all the new work being presented.


Murder in Dark is full of horror movie cliches, and as soon as Mrs Bateman (Susie Blake) welcomed Danny Sierra (Tom Chambers) into the remote cottage I started to run through the possible scenarios in my head. There are only so many things that could be happening after all! But to its credit, this show did keep me guessing - almost - until the end.


It's impossible to talk about any of the plot points or twists in detail without giving away spoilers, but the lights flicker, strange events occur and secrets are revealed. But although the story and the cast kept me entertained for 2 hours, I wasn't frightened at any time. I wasn't anxious or overcome with dread as I had been the previous evening at The Woman in Black. Murder in the Dark is far lighter in tone with an altogether less threatening feel. It even has moments of comedy.


Directed by the wonderful Philip Franks, Murder in the Dark is a well written and performed original story. Having a moderately famous, ex boyband member for the central character is, I believe, a unique spin and does work well. It's hopefully not too much of a spoiler to say that Danny has pursued fame at the cost of some of his closest relationships, and I found that an interesting scenario to unpick. The tight book results in an under two hour run time, and all the threads and questions were tied up by the end.


Murder in the Dark isn't the most tech-forward play I've seen but neither will it have the sizeable budget that permits for such extravagances. The set, light, sound and props are all well designed and perfectly timed to deliver maximum impact. None of the twists, turns or jumpscares were overly shocking though, and the enduring atmosphere was of watching a lovely group of people act out a mystery on stage, rather than being a part of a true horror experience.


The cast do a fine job with the script but only the central characters of Danny and Mrs Bateman have any real depth to them; the play simply isn't long enough to scratch more than the surface of the others. But this does work in the context of the plot: Danny is undoubtedly the star of the show and of his own life. Tom Chambers is suave and convincing in the lead role of the faded pop star, and Laura White is captivating as Sarah. Susie Blake is fantastic as the mysterious Mrs Bateman; she looks like she's having the time of her life playing the inscrutable, offbeat host and it's a delight to watch her perform.


Murder in the Dark plays at The Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow until Saturday 30th March 2024.


Not particularly frightening, but still a lot of fun!


⭐⭐⭐


⚠️ Age guidance 14+




The Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow

26th-30th March 2024

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @OriginalTheatre / @InTheDarkPlay / #MurderInTheDark


 

Murder in the Dark Cast and Creatives


Susie Blake Mrs Bateman

Tom Chambers Danny

Rebecca Charles Rebecca

Jonny Green Jake

Owen Oakeshott William

Laura White Sarah

Sasha Brooks Understudy

Cameron Falconar Understudy


Tom Chambers is known for his roles as Sam Strachan in Holby City and Casualty, Max Tyler in Waterloo Road and Inspector Sullivan in Father Brown. He also won the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing with his partner Camilla Dallerup. In theatre, he most recently appeared in the West End in Elf the Musical. He originated the role of Jerry Travers in Top Hat, which earned him an Olivier nomination. He also starred in Original Theatre’s lockdown film of Torben Betts’s Apollo 13: The Dark Side of the Moon.


Susie Blake has recently delighted audience across the country with her highly acclaimed portrayal of Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack’d. She is perhaps best known for playing the Continuity Announcer in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV, as well as her regular roles of Bev Unwin in ITV’s Coronation Street and Hillary Nicholson in BBC’s Mrs Brown’s Boys. She has recently appeared in series one and two of Kate & Koji (ITV), Not Going Out (BBC One) and The Real Marigold Hotel (BBC One). Her films include Fierce Creatures and Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!. Her theatre credits include Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical (Hall for Cornwall), Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em (UK Tour), My Fair Lady (Grange Festival), Grumpy Old Women Live 2 & 3 (UK Tour), When We Are Married (West End), Pygmalion (Chichester Festival Theatre), Madame Morrible in Wicked (West End) and Belinda Blair in Noises Off (National Theatre).


Rebecca Charles’s recent theatre credits include The Dresser (Theatre Royal Bath), An Ideal Husband (Vaudeville Theatre), The Graduate (West Yorkshire Playhouse), The Father (Duke of York’s/Wyndham’s/Tricycle/Theatre Royal Bath), Les Liaisons Dangereuses, (Salisbury Playhouse), The Old Country (English Touring Theatre/ Trafalgar Studios), Julius Caesar, (Barbican and Tour) and Great Expectations (Manchester Royal Exchange). Her film credits include The Heart of Me, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Shakespeare in Love and Mrs Brown.


Jonny Green can currently be seen as Charles in Count Abdulla on ITVX. He was previously seen playing Jonathan Ellacott in Strike: Troubled Blood on BBC 1, Martin in Russell T Davies’s critically acclaimed series It’s A Sin for Channel 4, and Young David in the Netflix series White Lines, alongside Laura Haddock and Danny Mays.


Owen Oakeshott’s theatre credits include Witness for the Prosecution (London County Hall); Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Guildford Shakespeare Company); A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Wars of the Roses (Rose Theatre Kingston); Market Boy, The Royal Hunt of the Sun (National Theatre); Roots (Manchester Royal Exchange); Way Upstream (Derby Playhouse); Antony and Cleopatra, Timon of Athens, The General from America, Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3, Richard III (Royal Shakespeare Company); Iceman Cometh (Almeida Theatre); An Inspector Calls (West End). Recent television credits include House of the Dragon, Outlander and You Me & Them.


Laura White until recently played the regular role of Dr Princess Buchanan on BBC 1’s Doctors. Other TV credits include Aysha in Silent Witness. Film credits include Gladys in The Colour Room about the famous potter Clarice Cliff. Her theatre credits include Nats/Ms Almi in Home Girl (Derby Theatre), Sandra in The Play That Goes Wrong (UK Tour), Sarah in the immersive promenade show C-O-N-T-A-C-T (London) and The Play That Goes Wrong (West End).


Murder in the Dark will be directed by Philip Franks (for Original Theatre: The Mirror Crack’d, The Habit of Art, The Haunting of Alice Bowles, The Croft and A Cold Supper Behind Harrods) and designed by Simon Kenny, with lighting design by Olivier Award-winner Paul Pyant, original music and sound design by Max Pappenheim, sound associate Johnny Edwards and assistant director Bethany West. The UK & Ireland Tour will be produced by Alastair Whatley and Tom Hackney for Original Theatre with Trafalgar Theatre Productions and JAS Theatricals.


 

🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange for my time and for writing this review. Neither the venue nor show has a say in what I write. I'm completely independent and review invites do not have any impact on my analysis or star ratings.



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REVIEW: Murder in the Dark (UK Tour) by Torben Betts starring Tom Chambers, Susie Blake and Laura White.


Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.

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