The Case of the Frightened Lady

Mar 27 2018 | By More

★★☆☆☆   Static

King’s Theatre: Mon 26 – Sat 31 Mar 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

Reliable performances by a host of crowd-pleasing big TV names cannot quite redeem the disappointing script of The Case of the Frightened Lady.

The company formed by Bill Kenwright as the Agatha Christie Theatre Company has been the Classic Thriller Theatre Company for a couple of years now. While this means they have access to wider range of touring material – and have certainly brought some enjoyable productions to Edinburgh in recent years – this one is neither a classic nor particularly thrilling.

The Cast of the Frightened Lady. Pic: Pamela Raith Photography

Edgar Wallace was a hugely popular name in the mid-20th century, with his publicists once claiming that he had written a quarter of all books being read in Britain, but has largely fallen from view. Even in an adaptation by Antony Lampard, this by-numbers whodunnit is short on suspense.

The set-up – the new Lord Lebanon, the mother who seeks to marry him off for dynastic reasons, and their various hangers-on, servants and generally rum coves – is a familiar one, as is the country house setting. So far, so promising, but it signally fails to go anywhere.

The ending fails to make sense of many things that have previously happened and the whole thing is profoundly unsatisfying. Even the title disappoints – horribly unwieldy and forgettable, and of little apparent relevance to the plot.

over-sized cast

Furthermore, it is all terribly static, with most of the action offstage, and consists largely of an over-sized cast standing around repeating things. In the tradition of modern horror movies, there is a reliance on jump-scares (in this case provided by sudden, irrelevant loud noises) to provide interest.

Gray O’Brien, Callum Coates, Glenn Carter, Ben Nealon and Charlie Clements. Pic: Pamela Raith Photography

Director Roy Marsden seeks to inject some much-needed pace, but the constant entrances and exits – sometimes with the characters saying or doing nothing in between – gives it the air of a rather stately farce. At times in the first half it is difficult to know how seriously to take it all.

The cast, many instantly recognisable from television, certainly do their best to project an air of commitment. Gray O’Brien (Tony Gordon from Coronation Street) gives Chief Superintendent Tanner huge amounts of brooding energy, perhaps to compensate for the fact that the character is on stage so long without doing any actual detecting.

Charlie Clements (Bradley Branning in EastEnders) has an even tougher job as Det Sgt Totti, who is only there to give Tanner someone to talk to, and should be congratulated for making the character so likeable.

lip-smacking lasciviousness

Rula Lenska gives the breeding-obsessed Lady Lebanon a hauteur and presence, while Denis Lill (veteran of countless TV programmes, but probably best known for The Royal) gives Dr Amersham a lip-smacking lasciviousness that is horribly compelling.

Denis Lill and Rula Lenska. Pic: Pamela Raith Photography

Ben (Soldier, Soldier) Nealon’s Lord Lebanon has an expansive charm, while Isla Crane (presumably the frightened lady of the title) is given winsome life by April Pearson from Skins.

The rest of the cast consists of a large number of domestic servants, few of which seem well-defined or even necessary, but all are discharged with considerable grace. Glenn Carter and Callum Coates give the two mysterious footmen genuine appeal, while Rosie Thomson’s maid Mrs Tilling has a commendable amount of life.

Philip Lowrie’s butler Kelver has a lugubrious dignity. The danger of a cast studded with such recognisable faces is demonstrated, however, when constant references to the police officer as ‘Mr Tanner’ instantly bring to mind Lowrie’s best-known role as Dennis of that name in Coronation Street.

Julie Godfrey’s beautifully solid-looking set and Alex Stewart’s costumes (particularly in the opening fancy-dress ball) are top class, and the whole production wants for nothing in time, money and effort spent on it. Unfortunately, the source material simply does not stand up, and the normally reliable Classic Thriller Theatre Company have come a little unstuck on this one.

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes including one interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Monday 26 – Saturday 31 March 2018
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinees Wed and Sat 2.30 pm
Tickets and details:


The Case of the Frightened Lady on tour:
26 – 31 Mar Edinburgh
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
3 – 7 Apr Woking
New Victoria Theatre
08448 717645 Book online
21 – 26 May Milton Keynes
08448 717652 Book online
11 – 16 Jun Coventry
Belgrade Theatre
024 7655 3055 Book online
18 – 23 Jun Southend
Palace Theatre
01702 351135 Book online
2 – 8 Jul Swansea
Grand Theatre
01792 475715 Book online
23 – 28 Jul Leeds
Grand Theatre
08448 482700 Book online
30 Jul – 4 Aug Bury St Edmonds
Theatre Royal
01284 769505 Book online
2 – 6 Oct Glasgow
Theatre Royal
08448 717647 Book online


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Comments (3)

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  1. Margaret Munro says:

    We agree with the above review. We left at the interval.
    Dramatic noises offstage seemed to indicate another person was dead! All action took place OFFSTAGE and the characters came running on and off almost talking to themselves. Someone’s listening – then out would step the butler who had been listening but nobody knew why.
    I couldn’t tell you what the story was about nor what each character had to do with it. Do not go and see this play:(

    • Duncan says:

      You should have stayed to the end – where contrary to the review, the whole thing was explained. And yes Isla is the frightened lady, again this is made quite clear during the production and I’m not sure how the reviewer could miss it. Probably bored to tears by a bang average pot-boiler where the identity of the murderer is glaringly obvious.

  2. Stuart Laing says:

    Contrary to the review we, as a family, thoroughly enjoyed the show as did the other members of the audience judging by the conversations overheard as we left.
    The staging was top notch, the cast, yes it is large but easy to follow each character’s role, we’re all excellent in their place.
    I honestly wonder if the official reviewer go along to a show determined to make it all about them.
    We all agreed the show worthy of 5 stars for all involved.