The Sound of Murder

‘The Sound of Murder’ is a mind-bending – thriller published in 1960 by Cornish playwright, director, and screenwriter, William Fairchild – sometimes credited as W. E. C. Fairchild. Fairchild was born in Boscastle at the end of the First World War, educated at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth then served as a naval officer during World War II.

In line with the author in this play, for fun, Fairchild drafted books on astrology for cats and dogs!

He was married for 17 years to a major TV actress Isabel Dean, and then to a producer, agent and writer, Robin Dalton from 1992 until his death 22 years ago in London.

He was particularly well known as the writer and director of ‘John and Julie’ (1955), Julie Andrews’ film ‘Star!’ (1968), and ‘The Extra Day’ (1956). Fairchild received an American Writers’ Guild nomination for a screen script.

This play was made into a movie in 1969 and was renamed ‘The Last Shot You Hear’.

This most enjoyable, two-hour play is being presented at The Old Mill Theatre in Mends Street, opposite the Windsor Hotel in South Perth – although at present, Mends Street is exceedingly difficult to drive along. The play’s season runs from Friday 3rd June until the 18th. The play is in three acts, 50-minutes, a normal interval followed by two acts of 20-minutes, in the middle of which the curtain lights come on for two minutes whilst a considerable scene change takes place behind the curtain.

The Scene:            It is 1959 in a spacious country home near Woking in Surrey, west of London.

The Set:                Designed by Peter Neaves was an Interior Set. Half the set is Norbury’s home office. It has wood panelled walls, with a book rack, a desk and chair, and a reel-to-reel tape recorder stored in a deep oak cabinet. One step up and there is a passageway to the front door. The other half of the stage is a homely sitting room with a twin-seater settee and a matching chair. The lounge walls are fresco-style wallpaper of peppermint with darker green candy stripes. There is a drinks table and a telephone stand. There is a large electric fire with a flickering flame effect.

The rear wall has a pair of patio doors that lead into the rear garden with a choice of bushes. The backcloth/vista painting was most realistic and well-lit to enhance the effect.

Set construction:                Martin Dorman and Peter Bloor, as always a great team, built a good solid set which, with one or two violent scenes, was tested to the full. Peter Neaves supplied the set dressing, décor, and props.

Lighting design:                  was by Virginia Moore Price – with advice from John Woolrych. Virginia has placed several pairs of matching wall bracket lamps around the room. The thunder and lightning storm was very convincing as the room lights flickered and flashes were seen outside. Good colour tones.

Lighting operator:              Patrick Liston had a great deal of split-second cues that he handled very well.

Sound design and operator:             Charlie Montgomery had some wonderful background music. He worked well with the lighting section.

Stage manager:  Neale Paterson had quite a few noises off as well as a large scene change near the end. Neale was assisted by ASM Meagan Jones.

I think that their quality programme may be the first to have a QR code that links to more information and an introductory address by the director. This was the design and idea of Rosalyn Anderson.

Charles Norbury (Jeremy Darling) is an obnoxious, self-opinionated bore who bullies his wife, Anne (Kate Elder). However, he is an extremely successful author of stories for toddlers about cuddly animals. He has made a fortune but despises the little monsters for whom he writes. At present, Charles is dictating his next best-seller into the tape recorder ready for his smart but slightly frumpy personal secretary, Miss Forbes (Virginia Moore Price) to type out. Miss Forbes is now in her mid-thirties, and it looks as though love may be passing her by, although there is someone she adores.

Fed up with being treated like dirt, Anne has found a lover, Peter Marriot (Ryan Emery). Charles is aware of his wife’s affair but refuses to grant her a divorce. (In the 1960s ‘married’ meant married for life.)

Marriot, frustrated by the gloating husband’s intransigence, suggests to Anne that they murder Charles.

One day, Inspector Davidson (Peter Bloor) and Police Constable Nash (Jacob Lane) call to see the author on a frivolous matter, not realising that they will be called back to the house only hours later to check out a murder.

Merri Ford’s costumes were typical of the early 60s, from Kate’s beautiful stylish clothes to her slovenly husband’s casual clothes.

The hairstyles and makeup were the crowning glories.

This is Director Peter Neaves’ first journey into directing. Peter is very well respected for his fine performances in more than three dozen plays over fifteen years – but can he direct? The simple answer was a resounding ‘Yes’. Peter has selected a strong cast who are exceptionally well-tuned into their characters. He kept them moving around the room and ensured that the chemistry flowed, and so kept the tension rolling.

Jeremy was fabulous as the supercilious loathsome husband; he really got the audience hating him. Kate was magnificent as the downtrodden wife, who did her best for her husband but was totally unappreciated. In this, his first stage play, Ryan was amazingly good and showed all the skills of a seasoned professional. Virginia has proven that she is a special actor with the capability of showing great emotions. Peter was a delight as the Inspector, who said one thing but you could see his brain chugging along in the background as he tried to confuse the suspects. Jacob brought a smile as the newly recruited constable, slightly dim but eager to please.

If and how will the murderer be caught out by the police?

This is a riveting, well written and cleverly structured storyline, showing all the skills of an Agatha Christie.

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