If the opening night audience was anything to go by, Windsor
theatregoers are ready to shake off the panto season and embrace
the Theatre Royal’s programme for 2017.
A packed auditorium heralded the first of this year’s productions which celebrates the 10th anniversary of The Classic Thriller. Theatre Company with a tour of, so far, 29 theatres, which will keep the cast in work until at least September. Some marathon!
Antony Costa appears as the wayward gardener RODGE MEADOWS
“Antony Costa as the wayward gardener may seem just a nice country lad but he does show his hidden depths”
star in another life who gets to sing in this play; star of
classic films such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The
Entertainer and Alfie, Shirley Anne Field; Andrew Lancel who won
the Villain of the Year in the British Soap Awards for his role
of Frank Foster in Coronation Street; Deborah Grant, best known
for A Bouquet of Barbed Wire and Another Bouquet, and Sophie
Ward, who has numerous film and TV credits.
A Judgement in Stone is considered to be one of Ruth Rendell’s
greatest works, but unlike the queen of crime novelists Agatha
Christie she is more concerned with the psychological sources of
a murderer’s actions.
So we don’t have a whodunnit here, rather a whydunnit, and how
did it come about.
The play alternates between real time and the months leading up
to the murder of a wealthy family of four. We know where we are
because of Malcolm Rippeth’s atmospheric lighting – warm and
homely for when the family is still alive, and cold and stark for
the time after the murders when the police are investigating the
crime and questioning various suspects. It’s an intricate
business. At the flick of a switch the scene changes and, last
night, characters sometimes didn’t get on or off stage in time
for the next scene. But it was, after all, opening night, and
under Roy Marsden’s skilled direction I’m sure the production
will be tightened up in no time.
It is beautifully set, in an oak panelled room with large leaded
windows looking out onto a garden, so top marks to designer Julie
Godfrey who makes the whole thing look so realistic.
There are surprising performances from some of the actors. Sophie
Ward plays Eunice Parchman, the housekeeper whose attempts to
keep her illiteracy secret lead to the tragic deaths of her
employers. As such she is wonderfully withdrawn but with a very
dark side, quite the opposite of Eunice’s only friend Joan Smith,
the village postmistress. She’s not at all like you’d expect a
postmistress or Deborah Grant, for that matter, to be. I love
Grant’s performance as a bleached blonde, mini-skirted common
ex-prostitute who has found God. Way over the top and hilarious
with it, the funniest scene is when she is dancing on the
I wouldn’t have expected Shirley Anne Field to be playing an
embittered cleaner, either, but that’s showbiz!
Everyone deserves praise: Andrew Lancel is suitably authoritative
as DS Vetch, up from London to head the investigation, while Ben
Nealon adds a homely touch as the local DS. As master and
mistress of the house, Mark Wynter and Rosie Thomson are full of
bonhomie and pretty smug, and I also like the performances of
their children. Although not the biggest parts Joshua Price makes
his mark as the moody Giles, as does Jennifer Sims as the
friendly, lovable Melinda, while Antony Costa as the wayward
gardener may seem just a nice country lad, but he does show his