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The Small Hours at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 21st Jan 2016 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

January is not the best time for theatre. Post-Christmas, people may have to budget. Then, of course, it’s either too wet or too cold to contemplate going out in the evening.

So it was good to discover that Rehearsal for Murder, last week’s production at the Theatre Royal Windsor, not only sold out but is being brought back at the end of the month for those who missed it - or, indeed, want to see it again.

Such was the popularity of this murder mystery that, late in the day, the powers that be fitted in another play of the same genre, The Small Hours, by that most prolific of writers, Francis Durbridge.

Best known for his Paul Temple series, which began in 1938 and which I still listen to on BBC Radio 4Extra with the same fondness people have for Brief Encounter, Durbridge’s whodunnits are chock-full of red herrings - and surprises - and The Small Hours doesn’t disappoint.

Some members of the cast are well-used to coppers and criminals. Graham Cole, who plays Chief Inspector George Westwood, and Mark Wingett (millionaire Oliver Radford) are both easily recognisable from the TV series The Bill, and they each play their roles with gravitas.

Since his days as Robbie Jackson in EastEnders, Dean Gaffney has also played his fair share of murder mysteries, as well as appearing in The Bill, and in this production he plays a character so edgy that you are bound to think he is up to something. Is this one of Durbridge’s red herrings? You can only find out be going to see it! The writer is sure to keep you guessing throughout the play, though just before the interval an intruder at the hotel belonging to Carl Houston - played diligently by Simon Dutton - is identified. I think it would have created even more suspense if the audience had been kept waiting until the after the break before being named.

Despite having only fairly small parts, some actors of note add their expertise to the production. Deborah Grant, still memorable for her role in A Bouquet of Barbed Wire, which brought fame for Windsor regular Susan Penhaligon, is efficient as Houston’s PA, and we warm to Georgina Leonidas, Katie Bell in several of the Harry Potter films, as the long-suffering as the wife of philandering chef (Mark Curry). That only leaves Carol Royle as Vanessa Houston, still beautiful as the trophy wife.

With chilling music from James Wickens, The Small Hours is a fun night out for those of us who like to be kept guessing.

The Small Hours continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until January 30

Box Office: 01753 853 888


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 2 years ago
    Thanks, Clare. Sounds like there is plenty of material at Windsor to keep audiences guessing whodunit!
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