Murder and murky family secrets are laid bare in an entertaining and well-constructed production of The Case of The Frightened Lady at the Belgrade Theatre.
When Inspector Tanner (Gray O'Brien) is called in to investigate a ruthless murder at Mark’s Priory, the grand ancestral home of the Lebanon family, he quickly discovers that nothing is quite as it seems.
Needless to say, the story falls firmly into the 'good old murder mystery' category, and while it demonstrates author Edgar Wallace's impressive thriller-writing pedigree, Agatha Christie this isn't.
Set in the 1930s, the action all takes place against the same backdrop - the courtyard of the stately home of the Lebanons. That helps it move swiftly and, aided by clever lighting, creates a strong sense of the passage of time, but it starts to feel a little dull on the eyes in the second act.
Nonetheless, Bill Kenwright's snappy production drives the story along at considerable place and the strong cast delivers a thoroughly enjoyable show which keeps the audience guessing until the very end.
Gray O'Brien excels as the stoic Tanner and Oliver Phelps adds a lighter note to proceedings as his assistant Totti.
Deborah Grant is a terrific Lady Lebanon; capturing her tortured character's all-consuming obsession with tradition and family lineage.
Meanwhile, Ben Nealon is delightfully daft and upper class as Lord Lebanon and Denis Lill brings a very humorous dose of pomposity and grandeur to the role of Dr Amersham.
There's some good supporting performances from the staff of the household too. Philip Lowrie gets it just right as the subservient Kelver, Rosie Thomson shines as Mrs Tilling and Glenn Carter and Callum Coates make a good double team as the omnipresent and ever-shady footmen, Gilder and Brook.
There may be no fireworks (just a few extremely loud gunshots and screams) but this still makes for thoroughly enjoyable theatre.
The Case of the Frightened Lady runs at Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 15 June.
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