Review: Prime Time Murder, Viva Theatre Company 20th October 2011

Viva Theatre’s production of ‘Prime Time Murder’ had all the requirements of a good night’s entertainment. The cast knew their jobs. The characters were clearly defined. The action moved smoothly and realistically. Michael Burrell’s script was deliciously savoured, especially the witticisms and strings of ‘one-liners’.

The audience became an integral part of the set immediately as they found themselves seated in a ‘TV studio’ during the recording of a game show called ‘If the cap fits’. At appropriate moments the audience was asked to vote as individuals, holding up their ‘if the cap fit cards’ when they thought a particular description of the background of a person matched the name given.  In others’ hands, such activity could have easily detracted from the dramatic events on stage, but with this team, it became a natural and effective ingredient.

Central to the plot was the arrogant Game Show Host Jimmy Roscoe (played by Jon Bridgeman). His narcissism, meanness and history as a sexual predator darkened a script that was packed with the jaded banter of studio staff trying to overcome the inevitable in-fighting of such a tightly-knit community. The Director, Mary Haskins (Jenny Aspland), did indeed ‘direct’ proceedings and her calm authoritative voice brought sense and structure to a group of varied, sensitive beings.

Jackie (Delia Tickner), the Production Assistant, was everywhere, cheerfully battling to keep order relieving the tensions of her job with crowning moments of dry humour.

A delightful array of contestants enlivened events: Terrence Rainer (Lee Sherwood) and his macho crassness contrasted well with celebrity guest Veronica Mellows (Ann Pallet).  More spice was added by Susan Barnold (Sara Lang), a well-focused driving test examiner, and the erudite Professor Humphrey Blethyn (David Tickner) pontificated wonderfully.

Events were further enhanced with Veronica’s two squabbling children Tom (Philip Evans) and Lucy Emily Palmer). Tom’s ‘look’ at the end of the show was priceless. Vision Mixer Michelle (Kim Turner), the calm assuredness of Inspector Wormald (David Moat) and his obliging constable PC Butterfield (Scott Robertson) and Studio Security (Josh Schunmann) were also essential contributors.

One of the most entertaining characters for me was undoubtedly the Make-up Artist, Susan Roach (Esther Hiller). Her naïve timidity and heartfelt outbursts as events turned out quite differently to those she had expected were portrayed magnificently. She was indeed one of the best of an outstanding cast.

Producer David Tickner is to be congratulated for a fine show supported by an excellent team, namely: Costumes (Lynn Quelch), Lighting and Sound (Nigel and Simon Thompson), Cameraman (Steve Evans), Box Office (Martha Waterhouse and June Lawrence) and Publicity (Alison Palmer and Oliver Waterhouse).

Viva Theatre’s expected participation in theRSCOpen Stages project with a production of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ at Anglesey Abbey next July is a fitting complement to their admirable achievement tonight.

Contact: http://www.viva-group.org.uk

Rosemary Westwell

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