‘Shock’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 30, 2016

‘Shock’ is a 1972 thriller written by English screenwriter and television producer, Brian Clemens, OBE. Clemens was a distant relation to American writer, Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens),

Born in Croydon, Clemens served his National Service where he was a weapons training instructor. When demobbed, he was offered a job as a private detective, but this involved moving to Leeds to take a training course – he preferred to remain at home instead. He worked his way up from messenger boy at advertising agency, to being a copywriter. In 1955 he had a thriller screenplay accepted by BBC TV.

Next he was a staff writer for the Danziger brothers, churning out dozens of ‘B grade’, half-hour television scripts, for series such as ‘Saber of London’ and ‘The Man from Interpol’. He then went on to write many of TV’s major classics, including ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Danger Man’, ‘The Avengers’, ‘Adam Adamant Lives!’ and ‘Bergerac’. He even wrote the BBC TV sitcom, ‘My Wife Next Door’.

This timeless thriller from the Garrick Theatre Company can be seen at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, in Guildford. This two and a half hour play runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00 until 15th October. There are matinées on the 2nd and 9th October at 2.00 pm.

 

It is the year 2000 in the English countryside. All of the action takes place in a remote house, belonging to Maggie Miller, which has been converted from a windmill.

The sitting room is wood-panelled. The front door leads straight into the main room. A side door goes to the outhouse. A short staircase leads up to a small balcony with two bedrooms. Keith Abbott, with the assistance of Luke Bogaers, solidly built the fine set to Fred Petersen’s design. There is a special ‘fun’ prop by Ray Egan and Guildford Potters.

    It is senior flight attendant, Maggie’s 50th birthday. She is holding a party for this special celebration.

    When there is no reply to her knocking, Maggie’s fellow Air Hostess, Ann (Anna Head), lets herself into the house with the secreted key only to find a scribbled note saying that Maggie has gone down to the village to pick up her birthday cake. A few minutes later, busybody neighbour, Jenny Rayner (Fiona Forster) arrives. Jenny is upset about the lack of intimate interest being shown by her husband Peter (Rodney Palmer), and has called around hoping to catch him ‘en flagrante’ with Maggie.

     Local odd-job boy, young Andy Flewin (Blake Prosser), who also fancies his chances with the older woman, calls with Maggie’s present to herself.

     The front door opens and in marches Flight Captain, Terry Dexter (Ben Lowther). He is Maggie’s latest conquest. Ann confides that she intends announcing her engagement to her partner, Steve (Ben Russell), at the party – but Maggie and Steve do not turn up for the celebrations. Where could they be? Murdered?

 

There was a short glitch, when a surge of power knocked out the computer controlling the sound and lights. Geoff Holt and Mark Owen were magnificent in getting to system back up. This is a fault that the technicians could not foresee, but this had to be one of the fastest recoveries that I have known. Many congrats. Admiration must go to the cast who also coped with the error very well.

The red herring clues flowed fast, as the entire cast accused each other of the murder. Two particularly fine performances from Anna Head and Fiona Forster. We were kept guessing who the murderer might be, right up to the final curtain. Creepy and packed with suspense.

Talented director, Fred Petersen, is the John Farnham of the community theatre; he has had more ‘final shows’ than anyone else. Thankfully, he keeps coming back with yet another superb presentation. Fred is one of the rare breed of directors who is willing to give newcomers a chance. He also ensures that each actor fully understands the character and personality of the part they are playing.

A most enjoyable murder story, clever script, and especially well acted.