Prescription For Murder

Apr 12 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆    Pleasing

Church Hill Theatre: Thu 11- Sat 13 Apr 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Prescription For Murder, from the Edinburgh Makars at the Church Hill Theatre, is one of those odd English crime dramas that provide more reassurance than apprehension.

Norman Robbins’s mystery thriller is very definitely edging into Midsomer Murders territory – something of which the play is only too aware – with its tale of intrigue and double-dealing in a sleepy Devon village.

Carol Davidson, Chester Parker and Anne Trotter. Pic: Maiia Vysotska

There are certainly enough misdirections and red herrings across the two acts to keep interest sustained, although a wordy, exposition-heavy script probably needs to be taken at a slightly greater speed than it is here to avoid dragging.

Nevertheless, Director Mike Appleby has fashioned a production whose performances – despite the odd first night fluff – are as solid and believable as the beautifully-fashioned living room set.

Emma Needs, as the constantly ill country doctor’s wife Barbara, turns in a well considered, complex performance. Martin Burnell gives her husband – the overworked Doctor Richard Forth whose past may not be as respectable as it appears – a suitably bluff air, making light of a real-life medical situation that necessitates his wearing a sling on stage.

Their relationship – already rocky due to Emma’s apparent hypochondria and Richard’s friendship with ex-girlfriend Julia – is further undermined by Eric, the visiting computer salesman who is in search of a mysterious ex-fiancee of Richard’s about whom the doctor claims to know nothing.

centred and plausible

Derek Melon’s Eric is a centred and plausible characterisation, while Jo Barrow is more expansive as Julia, but both performances work very well in the context of the production.

Chester Parker, Anne Trotter, Carol Davidson, Emma Needs, Martin Burnell. Pic: Maiia Vysotska

Barrow is also responsible for what are a series of thoroughly spot-on costumes, most notably in the case of bowls-obsessed bore Alan Haigh (Chester Parker). Alan and his wife Mary (Anne Trotter) are discharged with such charm and energy that their artificial function in the script – stereotypical neighbours whose implausibly frequent visits are there to drive the plot along – goes unnoticed.

Gossipy cleaner Dorothy is another characterisation that is given considerable believability and elevated above the stereotype by Carol Davidson.

The technical elements of the production – provided by Cameron Chisholm and Phil McNicol – are top-notch, and the whole thing bowls along comfortably. The comparative lack of pace, allied to a shortage of genuine shocks, means that it elicits satisfied sighs rather than gasps of surprise, but this remains a genuinely pleasing production.

Running time 2 hours 20 minutes (including one interval).
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Thursday 11– Saturday 13 April 2019
Daily at 7.30 pm.
Tickets and information: Book here.
Facebook: @edinburghmakars.
Twitter: @EdinMakars

Anne Trotter, Emma Needs. Pic: Maiia Vysotska


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