Theatre review: Go Back For Murder

Go Back for Murder
Go Back for Murder

Let me say first that I would encourage people to see Go Back for Murder.

The scenery is top-class, there are some very well thought out set pieces and the plot is as gripping and clever as you would expect from Agatha Christie.

But this was not my favourite play I have ever seen at Royal & Derngate.

Part of the reason was that there were too many distractions.

The plot centres on daughter Carla Le Marchant (played by Sophie Ward) who, stumbling upon a letter from her mother who died in prison after seemingly murdering her husband, sets out to prove a miscarriage of justice.

From the first scene I could not get over Ward’s supposed Montreal accent. I could understand every word but it just didn’t add up and I was unable to concentrate on what she was saying, only how she was saying it.

At a risk of being accused of being ageist, I would also have preferred a younger actor than Ward to have played Carla. This is not a criticism of her but at the age of (a very beautiful) 48, constant references to the fact that she was a young girl were pretty difficult to square with the facts. The same in fact went for Lady Elsa Greer, played by Lysette Anthony, who played the murder victim’s youthful mistress.

Of course it was understandable, given that the action shifted from 1968 to 1948, that the director would want the same actor to play their younger self and even both mother and daughter. What I did not understand was why younger actors could not have been used, since youth was so often mentioned, as they could be made to look older far more easily than the reverse.

Anthony was not my favourite actor in this production, playing the young Elsa with far too much melodrama and a sing song delivery that was saddening given that her earlier rendition of older Elsa was very good, channelling the best bits of Joanna Lumley to raise several of the few laughs the audience spared.

I’m afraid the delivery from all the cast, for minutes on end, was not the most captivating, despite the physical acting being of a very high standard. Too often the actors seemed to be practising reading through the script rather than saying anything with feeling.

Towards the end the brothers Meredith and Philip Blake (Antony Edridge and Robert Duncan) appeared to be rattling off lines only to quickly get to the end, with little intonation and few pauses to let the information sink in.

And yet there was much to lift the spirits. Georgia Neville (playing Angela Warren) contributed a perfectly-pitched exuberance that brought the play alive. And the real soul of the production was to be found in Ben Nealon, playing the solicitor Justin Fogg who lays out the case, and governess Miss Williams, played with warm authority by Liza Goddard.

And towards the end, when events are retold, the different way in which the earlier words are re-presented was very clever and framed the crucial turning point expertly.

Early in the play Carla says that, in order to move forward, she must go back.

Would I go back to this play? I think I would as the cast showed enough glimpses of excellence to make me believe they could excel on another night.