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A Judgement in Stone at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 12th Jan 2017 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

If the opening night audience was anything to go by, Windsor theatregoers are ready to shake off the panto season and embrace the Theatre Royal’s programme for 2017.

A packed auditorium heralded the first of this year’s productions which celebrates the 10th anniversary of The Classic Thriller Theatre Company with a tour of, so far, 29 theatres, which will keep the cast in work until at least September. Some marathon!

That cast includes familiar favourites such as Mark Wynter, a pop star in another life who gets to sing in this play; star of classic films such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Entertainer and Alfie, Shirley Anne Field; Andrew Lancel who won the Villain of the Year in the British Soap Awards for his role of Frank Foster in Coronation Street; Deborah Grant, best known for A Bouquet of Barbed Wire and Another Bouquet, and Sophie Ward, who has numerous film and TV credits.

A Judgement in Stone is considered to be one of Ruth Rendell’s greatest works, but unlike the queen of crime novelists Agatha Christie she is more concerned with the psychological sources of a murderer’s actions.

So we don’t have a whodunnit here, rather a whydunnit, and how did it come about.

The play alternates between real time and the months leading up to the murder of a wealthy family of four. We know where we are because of Malcolm Rippeth’s atmospheric lighting - warm and homely for when the family is still alive, and cold and stark for the time after the murders when the police are investigating the crime and questioning various suspects. It’s an intricate business. At the flick of a switch the scene changes and, last night, characters sometimes didn’t get on or off stage in time for the next scene. But it was, after all, opening night, and under Roy Marsden’s skilled direction I’m sure the production will be tightened up in no time.

It is beautifully set, in an oak panelled room with large leaded windows looking out onto a garden, so top marks to designer Julie Godfrey who makes the whole thing look so realistic.

There are surprising performances from some of the actors. Sophie Ward plays Eunice Parchman, the housekeeper whose attempts to keep her illiteracy secret lead to the tragic deaths of her employers. As such she is wonderfully withdrawn but with a very dark side, quite the opposite of Eunice’s only friend Joan Smith, the village postmistress. She’s not at all like you’d expect a postmistress or Deborah Grant, for that matter, to be. I love Grant’s performance as a bleached blonde, mini-skirted common ex-prostitute who has found God. Way over the top and hilarious with it, the funniest scene is when she is dancing on the table.

I wouldn’t have expected Shirley Anne Field to be playing an embittered cleaner, either, but that’s showbiz!

Everyone deserves praise: Andrew Lancel is suitably authoritative as DS Vetch, up from London to head the investigation, while Ben Nealon adds a homely touch as the local DS. As master and mistress of the house, Mark Wynter and Rosie Thomson are full of bonhomie and pretty smug, and I also like the performances of their children. Although not the biggest parts Joshua Price makes his mark as the moody Giles, as does Jennifer Sims as the friendly, lovable Melinda, while Antony Costa as the wayward gardener may seem just a nice country lad, but he does show his hidden depths.


A Judgement in Stone is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until January 21

It then continues to tour:

Jan 23-28: Richmond Theatre

Jan 30-Feb 4: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Feb 13-18: Kings Theatre, Edinburgh

Feb 20-25: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Feb 27-Mar 4: Eastbourne Devonshire Park

Mar 6-11: Hall for Cornwall, Truro

Mar 13-18: Buxton Opera House

Mar 27-Apr 1: Northampton Theatre Royal

Apr 4-8: Cardiff New Theatre

Apr 10-15: The Playhouse, Weston-Super-Mare

Apr 18-22: Bromley Churchill Theatre

Apr 24-29: Leeds Grand Theatre

May 2-6: Malvern Festival Theatre

May 8-13: Cheltenham Everyman Theatre

May 15-20: Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells

May 22-27: Crawley The Hawth Theatre

May 30-Jun 3: Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Jun 5-10: Southend Palace Theatre

Jun 12-17 Derby Theatre

Jun 19-24; Glasgow Theatre Royal

Jun 26-Jul 1: New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Jul 3-8: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Jul 10-15: Harrogate Theatre

Jul 17-22: Stoke Regent Theatre

Jul 24-29: Milton Keynes Theatre

Jul 31-Aug 5: Newcastle Theatre Royal

Aug 19-23: Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Sept 25-30: Orchard Theatre, Dartford.


Box Office: 01753 853888



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