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Love from a Stranger

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

To suggest that Lucy Bailey’s staging of Agatha Christie’s double-bluffing yarn concerning a murderous affair between a couple on the run lulls the audience into a false sense of security is something of an understatement. In fact, things go round town and country houses for so long before getting to the point one wonders at times where exactly it’s headed for. None of this is the fault of Bailey or the cast of Frank Vosper’s adaptation of Christie’s short story, Philomel Cottage, updated here to the 1950s. It’s just that, for all the dark-room black-outs and red-outs on Mike Britton’s modernist des-res set, the script needs the sharpest of knives taken to it to give things the full oomph required.

Bayswater gel Cecily finds herself in a whirlwind romance with American pretty-boy charmer Bruce after he views the flat-share she’s vacating to marry drippy Michael, who’s just returned from Sudan. After assorted shenanigans involving Cecily’s flat-mate Mavis and her annoying aunt, Michael is left in the lurch. By the second act, Cecily and Bruce are shacked up in a crumbling West Sussex pile. It is here things take an infinitely darker turn, even with the light relief of an ancient gardener and his nosy grand-daughter, not to mention an amateur criminologist quack.

With a panoply of psycho-sexual sport at play in a show led by Helen Bradbury and Sam Frenchum as the dangerously impulsive new couple, there are clear shades of The League of Gentlemen at play here, however accidental. This just about gets past some of the dialogue’s cottage cheese in a gloriously amoral piece of cut-glass froth so magnificently unlikely that evidence of its two-faced bid for credibility would almost certainly never stand up in court.

The Herald, June 6th 2018

ends




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