A Touch of Danger

Mar 6 2015 | By More

★★★☆☆    Satisfying thriller

Church Hill Theatre: Thurs 5 – Sat 7 March 2015

Short on genuine thrills but consistently enjoyable, the Edinburgh Makars’ production of Francis Durbridge’s A Touch of Danger is a somewhat contrived thriller made more interesting by considered performances.

Novelist Max Telligan has been reported dead in Munich, but turns up back in London very much alive. Questions soon surface as to what happened in Germany, with some suspicious characters taking a very close interest in the diaries Max is preparing for publication.

Chester Parker and Derek Melon. Photo Edinburgh Makars

Chester Parker and Derek Melon. Photo Edinburgh Makars

Paul Temple creator Durbridge was renowned for plots full of twists where characters are rarely what they seem. This is certainly the case here, and if the characterisation is thin and the story verging on the ludicrous, it remains the kind of well-crafted thriller that has kept many a rep company in business.

The original’s mid-1980s setting has apparently been updated to the present day, but occasional references to Blu-Ray players or mobiles merely point up the elements of the plot that remain resolutely 20th century, as well as adding some more plot holes. If there is a working computer on the desk capable of finding out flight times to Munich, why are characters reduced to looking in the ‘stop press’ column of the Evening Standard to find out the latest news?

It would have been much better to have left the setting in 1987. There are some obvious parallels with modern-day concerns in the storyline, but these are undermined rather than reinforced here.

a mixture of curiosity, steel and utter confusion

All of which, added to a rather wordy script, means that the cast have to work very hard to ramp up the tension. The redoubtable Derek Mellon leads the way as Max, displaying a mixture of curiosity, steel and utter confusion in a naturalistic performance that anchors the action effectively. His interaction with Beatrice Cant as his estranged wife Harriet is particularly noteworthy; they manage to convince utterly as a couple who were once close but don’t seem to know each other any more.

The full cast of A Touch of Danger. Photo: Edinburgh Makars

L-R: Grace Gilbert (Liz), Phil McNicol (Jeff), Emma Needs (Connie), Chester Parker (Crane), Derek Melon (Max), Wullie Cunningham (Lloyd), Andrew Hawdon (Digby) Beatrice Cant (Harriet), Pamela de Logu (Rose) in A Touch of Danger Photo: Edinburgh Makars

The truthfulness of the performances means that, while this is never edge-of-the-seat stuff, it is far more believable than it has any right to be. It also helps to reinforce the suspicions that no-one is exactly what they seem. Phil McNicol’s bluff golf pro Jeff and Emma Needs (his girlfriend Connie) turn in well judged portrayals. Grace Gilbert, as Max’s secretary Liz, is excellent at showing emotion through the smallest gesture or reaction.

The more mysterious characters who start appearing to bamboozle Jeff are also nicely pitched. Wullie Cunningham’s suspicious American Lloyd and Chester Parker’s shadowy Mr Crane both manage to impart an air of mystery without going over the top. Andrew Hawdon’s Digby, meanwhile, is played with an almost diffident air that makes him seem more sinister than a more obvious, brusque portrayal would achieve.

The occasional lighting glitch does not detract from the atmosphere of a production that features some subtle sound effects. Martin Burnell’s direction makes good use of the well crafted set and ensures the pace and atmosphere are consistent.

The plot will cause more head scratching than gasps of surprise, but there is nevertheless something peculiarly enjoyable about the whole thing that makes for a satisfactory evening.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including interval
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Thursday 5 – Saturday 7 March 2015
Evenings at 7.30 pm
Full details and tickets from: http://www.edinburghmakars.com/


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