The show went on at the Grand in Wolverhampton, despite the fact that one of the lead actors in this three-hander was unable to perform.
The smallness of the troupe left them without the luxury of an understudy. Actor, Paul Fields, who is due to appear in the last two plays in this short rep season, was drafted in early to tackle the role of the unassuming near-stranger, John Barrett, who takes an upwardly mobile young couple hostage in their conservatory.
The fact that he had to act while reading his lines from the script inevitably had an impact on his delivery. However, apart from a few dialogue stumbles and moments when the introduction of props worked less than smoothly, he coped well.
Marcus Webb, as the arrogant businessman, and Emily Outred, as his unhappy trophy wife, valiantly ignored the distraction of the book in their captor’s hand to deliver convincing performances as the increasingly discomforted pair whose marital house of cards steadily disintegrates as suspicions are confirmed and secrets revealed.
It is a talky piece, reminiscent of a Tales of the Unexpected though without that show’s more fantastical elements, as the grey – in a John Major-ish sort of way – man alternately probes and threatens, determined to call one of them to account for a crime for which he holds them responsible.
Though it is fairly easy to deduce the bones of what happened and whodunnit, sufficient tension is maintained to keep the audience anticipating more twists and turns.
It would have been interesting to see how much better it would have been had all the actors been word perfect, as the more sinister aspects of Barrett’s personality were inevitably blunted by Fields’ pauses to read the next line.
* Running time: Two hours. Until Saturday.