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From the imagination of acclaimed writer Torben Betts, directed by Philip Franks and produced by the award-winning Original Theatre, Murder In The Dark is a psychological ghost story/thriller with plenty of humour thrown in for good measure…

The play stars Tom Chambers (Holby City, Casualty and Strictly Come Dancing champion) as Danny Sierra, an aging, troubled singer from a faded boy band, and Susie Blake (Victoria Wood As Seen On TV, Coronation Street and Mrs Brown’s Boys) as Mrs Bateman, an eccentric old lady who offers Danny and members of his estranged family somewhere to stay after they are left stranded miles away from civilisation in the aftermath of a car crash.

It’s New Year’s Eve. Returning to London after attending his mother’s funeral, Danny, his older brother (Owen Oakeshott), his ex-wife (Rebecca Charles), his petulant teenage son (Jonny Green), and his much younger girlfriend (Laura White) unhappily realise they are stuck together for the night in an isolated and run-down holiday let owned by the aforementioned Mrs Bateman. The phone signal is poor, there’s no WiFi, no taxis, an unreliable electricity supply, not enough beds, and an archaic outside loo.
From the start of the first act, an eerie atmosphere is developed and nothing is what it seems. The background stories of the complex characters slowly emerge. 

Susie Blake is very entertaining as Mrs Bateman. She deliberately evades her guests’ questions, moving from humour to menace in the blink of an eye. Danny’s dysfunctional family have many unresolved issues with him, and in the confined space where none of them want to be, tensions rise and ugly family feuds are played out. Although Danny is aware of the impact his selfish and destructive behaviours have had on his family, he chooses to wallow in self-pity, turning to alcohol to avoid dealing with the reality of the situation, rather than taking responsibility for his actions.

In the second act, secrets are revealed, with plenty of twists and turns thrown in for good measure. 
All the cast work well together, sustaining a tense atmosphere throughout. Comedy is effectively used to lull the audience into a false sense of security before clever use of lighting, loud noises and ghostly apparitions make them jump out of their skin. The scary moments are well executed, effective and extremely memorable! It’s hard to share much information without giving away the show’s secrets and spoiling it for future audiences.

A well-written play, with a simple but effective stage set - the interior of the desolate cottage - Murder In The Dark is entertaining, witty, thought-provoking and at times disturbing. This is definitely not a show for the faint-hearted, but if an evening of creepy, tense and spine-chilling theatre appeals, you won’t be disappointed. 

Four stars

Murder In The Dark was reviewed by Sue Hull on Tuesday 7 November at The Alexandra, Birmingham, where it shows until Saturday (11 November). The production returns to the region in early 2024, playing Malvern Theatres from Monday 19 to Saturday 24 February.