A Judgement in Stone – Review – Leeds Grand
A Judgement in Stone – Review
Leeds Grand, April 2017
by Sandra Callard
Ruth Rendell was one of England’s most celebrated novelists and a master of her craft. Her ‘Inspector Wexford’ series of crime mysteries are devoured avidly by her fans, and the beautifully produced television series is a perfect example of the genre, and still commands huge audiences.
Rendell could delve into the psychology of a murderer with astonishing insight, always giving the reader some clue, no matter how bizarre or grotesque the character appears to be. This is why it is so disappointing to see the production of A Judgement in Stone, one of Rendell’s most celebrated novels, treated like an amateurish, end-of-the pier show.
The Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s production falls far short of the tension and gripping compulsion of Rendell’s novel. However, the stage setting of Lowfield Hall is good, and the presentation of showing past and present scenes alternatively does work well. It is cleverly and seamlessly done, and soon falls into a pattern of clarity that is laudable.
“Badly let down by a script that is trite”
The Coverdale family trip lightly and carelessly across the boards. But their personalities are as insubstantial as the wind, leaving no memory when they exit the stage. The parents, George and Jacqueline, played by Mark Wynter and Rosie Thomson, inhabit a smiling world. Here, everyone is called ‘darling’ and nothing of note ever happens. Their strange housekeeper, Eunice Parchman, is almost brought to life by Sophie Ward, who drags herself about the stage, casting glowering glances at everyone
Mrs Coverdale thinks she is ‘wonderful’, as indeed she does everything else. The cast, who in the main are tried and tested actors of great experience, are badly let down by a script that is trite and entirely uncompelling, and a direction that is loose and, in parts, downright silly. The play is directed by Roy Marsden, an actor whom I greatly admire. But he seems to have lost his way badly in this adaptation.
“A pedestrian and abject bit of theatre”
The only performance of merit is by Andrew Lancel as Detective Superintendent Vetch. He gives a solid and believable portrayal of a baffled detective, threading his way through a collection of surreal clues. Also worthy of note is Deborah Grant’s offering of the totally wacky Joan Smith. She’s a local post mistress and religious crackpot, who is also a sexual deviant for good measure. This must have been a gift of a part to Grant. She gives it all she’s got and enjoys doing it for good measure.
It’s a nice bit of fun in an otherwise pedestrian and abject bit of theatre. A Judgement in Stone, in the main, is a tawdry sacrilege of Rendell’s brilliance.
images: Mark Yeoman