Talking Scarlet at the Civic Theatre Chelmsford
Jean Sablon on the soundtrack speaks the period and the setting in a way that the décor – a generic rustic cottage – fails to do, despite some evocative detail.
The lighting too, while often effective, could enhance the mood better – the kitchen seems overlit from the front.
But the company do a fine job with Brian Clemens' period thriller, from the first appearance of the huge hunting rifle through the door to the final declaration of war, with a surreal swastika and a deluge of poppies.
Lara Lemon is Suzy, the only character who is just what she seems – living the Provençal idyll with the moody “Peter” [Gary Turner], agricultural labourer and Sunday painter. The other woman – much less convincingly written, is Chief Inspector Miller, played in elegant trousers by Corrinne Wicks. Andrew Fettes is the amnesiac Josef, from the hovel next door. And Brian Capron is outstanding as Ross – subtly altering the character between the acts. The Chateau Latour scene with Turner is brilliantly done – a tour de force of twists and turns. Not all the scenes grip us as much, and there's a good deal of sign-posting, with clues and hints thickly scattered. Peter, for instance, is rarely without a scary kitchen knife in his hand.
The piece is directed by the playwright's son, Samuel Clemens, best known perhaps as a film maker, and he has the action underscored like a movie, with impressive music composed by Edward Patrick White.