DIRECTOR: Christopher Weare
CAST: Carel Nel, Nandi Horak, Dorian Burstein and Emily Child
VENUE: Intimate Theatre
UNTIL: September 8
In Murderer, the award-winning The Mechanicals theatre production collective present a play written by Anthony Shaffer – the British playwright who also gave us the hit play, Sleuth.
Murderer is an entertaining dramatic thriller about a man whose mind games go a little too far.
Norman Bartholomew (played by Nel) is a philandering artist who wants to get rid of his wife Elizabeth (Child) – and I don’t mean he wants to offer her a divorce.
When he is with his girlfriend Millie (Horak), he’s into the kind of role playing that would make even the most sexually liberated people blush. He likes to recreate the murders that made headlines in history.
Sometimes, this means Norman has to make sure his lover is unconscious to play at getting away with murder. But this exercise just serves as practice for how he really plans to kill Elizabeth.
Unfortunately for Norman, he has one nosey magogo for a neighbour who can’t tell his role-playing from criminal activity. The Peeping Tom ways ensure Sergeant Stenning (Burstein) comes knocking more than once on his doorstep.
In true Shaffer style, there are some unexpected twists in the plot and just when you think you’ve figured it out, there goes another turn to twist your perceptions.
The audience was like putty in the cast’s hands. Except for a few times when the drama becomes a tad bit funny, like when Nel breaks the fourth wall and walks into the crowd to retrieve a murder weapon.
Some of these scenes are funny because it is surprising that someone could have such childlike enthusiasm for murder and it’s mostly funny because Norman is witty when trading words with the oh-so-serious Sergeant.
Child stood out as a woman scorned who really is fine with turning a blind eye to her husband’s hobby if he commits to staying in the marriage and making it work. Child is fun to watch as she is snappy and then remorseful. She has a fierce glare in her eyes at once and a disposition that dares Norman to do something in the next moment.
Her chemistry with Nel was believable, while Horak’s character came off as a bit too immature. Perhaps the actress missed the mark by a smidgen of being someone who’d go to any lengths to please a lover and instead went overboard with it.
What was wonderful to see was the set. Combining real objects and drawn ones, the murder scene narrative was taken even further where windows and book shelves look like they have been outlined with chalk.
Red – the colour of blood, danger and passion – is beautifully used throughout the set, but not in a gross in-your-face manner. From the paintings to the pillow, strands on a bathrobe, it’s subtle, but is a nod to the nature of the play.
The music was well placed, too. An instrumental number that has an onomatopoeia-like bridge that sounds like a sequence of throbbing at the temple when one is in the kind of trouble that induces a headache. The way in which Norman obsessed over killing lovers reminded me of Helen Oyeyemi’s book, Mr Fox, where a writer is intent on gruesomely murdering his female protagonists. But what happens when those murders become a reality? Murderer may be it.