‘Silhouette’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by November 20, 2015

‘Silhouette’ is a thriller, written in 1997 by UK radio producer and playwright, Simon Brett. Brett won a prestigious ‘Edgar’ (short for the Edgar Allan Poe Award); he has also won – along with Raymond Chandler and John le Carré – the world’s most respected accolade for detective writers, a ‘Diamond Dagger’.

‘Silhouette’ premiered in Guildford west of London, but strangely, this ingenious play is only now having its Australian Premiere – 18 years later – again in Guildford, this time in WA. Presented by The Garrick Theatre Club as Fred Petersen’s swan song after 39 years of outstanding service, this gripping play can be seen at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford. The two-hour performances are at 8.00 pm on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 5th December. There is one matinee on Sunday the 29th November at 2.00 pm.

The theatre has just undergone a substantial refit. Outside there are LED cable lights – changing colour – leading to the front door. The two new air con units mean that the airflow is now silent and not battling against the actors.

The new seating has been installed, positioned to allow patrons to see more comfortably. LED strips are along the aisle for security. The insulation in the roof substantially reduced aircraft noise. Every happiness and success with your ‘new’ home.

 

The scene is late one Friday night in the Sussex country home of two famous actors.

The set is a comfortable sitting room with a small dining room at the back, separated from the sitting area by glass doors and curtains. To the right is a staircase going up to the bedrooms. The walls are covered in various weapons and trophies from Celia’s films and stage shows. Keith Abbott built Fred Petersen’s set design.

         The room is in darkness, when a car is heard entering the drive. Blue flashing lights shine through the glazed front door. Voices are heard, and someone bangs loudly on the door. There is no response, but the door is found to be unlocked. It is the police answering a 999 call from the owner, drama queen and diva, Celia Wallis (Anna Head). She had called the police, as she had just found her obnoxious and volatile actor husband, Martin (David McGarr) seated in the dining room with a bullet through his head.

       As the police, with torches in hand, stagger around the sitting room trying to find the light switch, Celia descends the stairs. She has been in her bedroom and not heard their knocking. Well-organised Detective Inspector Bruton (Rhett Clarke) soon has Fisher, his detective sergeant (Terry Brown) in charge of collecting evidence with the two SOCO (scenes of crime officers) – WPC Wilkins (Alison Burke) and WPC Carter (Tania Clohessy).

      Bruton starts interviewing Celia, and finds that she and her jealous husband were not on the best of terms. The new, young WPC Leach (Amber Moore) stops taking notes when a nervous young man, dressed in Celia’s pink dressing gown descends the stairs. He is grasping his head, apparently the worse for wear due to drinking champagne.  Bruton discovers he is BBC radio reporter, Martin Smallwood (Pearce McGrogan) a nervous mummy’s boy, who is infatuated by Celia.

      An arrest is made at the end of Act One, and Act Two shows the strange circumstances leading to the arrest.

 

Director Fred Petersen, one of Community Theatre’s best-loved and respected directors has decided to make this play his last – for the moment? Nevertheless, what a way to retire – with a triumph.

Geoff Holt has produced his usual high quality lighting and sound design, sadly however, the operator for the night missed almost every cue, either pre-empting or delaying a cue when the actors turned lights on and off; one was so bad that the audience chuckled.

What a brilliant, flawless cast. Every actor completely understood his or her character. The red herrings and hints were dropped with subtle skill. The delivery and body language perfect. A special mention for the three main actors, Anna as the grieving widow, Celia, Pearce as the infatuated journalist, Neville and Rhett the persistent detective, Bruton. Three outstanding performances.

Simply the best mystery play I have seen this decade.