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It Could Be Any One of Us

by on 21 October 2022

To Whom Dunnit

It Could Be Any One of Us

by Alan Ayckbourn

SMDG at Hampton Hill Theatre until 22nd October

Review by Gill Martin

Alan Ayckbourn is one of Britain’s most successful and prolific playwrights with over eighty works to his name.  It Could be Any One of Us, a murder mystery set in a creaky country house during a raging storm, is not one of his best.

The SMDG company, directed by Helen Smith, try manfully to inject some tension into the action but despite their efforts the outcome is flabby.  It seems to lack Ayckbourn’s normal sparkling wit and pace, floundering under the weight of wordy passages.  Maybe It Could be Any One of Us, his thirtieth play which premiered in 1983, is just showing its age, like the decrepit old house and its depressing inhabitants, siblings of the Chalke family.

This is a house of failures: The composer Mortimer (played by Vaughan Evans) whose music will never be heard in a concert hall; The painter Brinton (Paul Lawston) whose pictures will never grace a gallery; The author Jocelyn (Susan Reoch) who never finishes a book, 34 so far, let alone publishes one; The teenage Incredible Hulk of Jocelyn’s daughter Amy, who eschews singing, dancing, sculpting and pottery in favour of eating cake … lots of it.  Toss into this dysfunctional soup Jocelyn’s partner Norris (Darren McIlroy), a detective who never solves a case.

The twist in this whodunit is that the crime has yet to be committed.  But murder is on the cards as the family fights over a will.   The house is owned by big brother Mortimer, who dominates the household and threatens to disinherit them all in favour of a former piano pupil Wendy (Jenny Hazell), his only student.

There is zero love lost between Mortimer and Norris. ‘You’re a growth Norris’, the old man snarls. ‘You’re not a man at all.  You’re a malignant growth.’

So, who is about to be murdered?  Mortimer for his vicious tongue and cruel plan?  Or the interloper who threatens to make the siblings homeless if she takes over the house to set up her King Charles spaniel sanctuary?  Who will commit the dastardly deed?  And how?

The plot thickens with the tampering of car brakes, a falling wardrobe and a champagne flute laced with bleach. 

The gloomy house looks ripe for scenes of blood, with it menacing maroon walls and heavy furnishings (thanks to Alan Corbett for set design).  And there’s plenty of stormy side effects with things that go bump in the night.

Norma Beresford gets the costumes just right, with Jocelyn in frumpy Fairisle, truculent Amy trudging the boards in unflattering black.  Then there’s Brinton in arty smock, beret and flowery scarves.

Brinton looks the real deal but has yet to grow into an artist or out of his infatuation with the Wendy he remembers when she was a schoolgirl and whose image he’s been trying to capture for twenty years.   Now a mother of three sons with a domineering husband she’s the only ‘normal’ character among the eccentrics in this artistic colony and the put-upon 15 stone Amy who is eating her way out of unhappiness.

‘It’s not a bundle of laughs, is it?’ commented one theatregoer making a quick exit for the bar at the interval.

A musical lowlight of the play is Wendy at the piano nervously singing nursery rhymes while the energetic Norris investigates scary noises in the dark house. 

The line: ‘I remember you as having very little talent. But I may have over-estimated you,’ won that bundle of laughs.

Gill Martin, October 2022

Photography by Donald Palansky

One Comment
  1. Rich Portlock permalink


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