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New Forest Players production Dead Reckoning was ‘odd mixture of farce and thriller’.

A VERY off-hand attitude to murder was displayed in the New Forest Players’ production of Deadly Reckoning, written by Eric Chappell, the author renowned for Rising Damp and many other TV scripts.

Set in 1961, the play sees a renowned artist caught up in a maze of chilling mind games and deceit. When the mysterious Mr Todd arrives at painter Tony Reed’s house, Tony is forced to face the past that still haunts him and make a decision that he has only ever fantasised about. This decision leads Reed and his second wife Megan into a terrifying nightmare from which there seems no escape. Who exactly is Mr Todd? Just how far is Tony Reed prepared to go? And who really did kill his adored first wife, Alison?

New Forest Players Dead Reckoning
New Forest Players Dead Reckoning

David Luker was quietly menacing as Todd, the mysterious ‘contract killer’ who offers to kill Tony’s wife’s murderer and so satisfy his long desire for revenge.

Michael Deacon gave a studied performance as the bad-tempered artist Tony, haunted by images of his dead wife amidst the debris of his failing relationship with second wife, Megan, his former mistress. Seemingly burnt up with impotent desire to avenge his late wife’s brutal murder by killing Sweeney, the man convicted and jailed for the crime, his weakness shows through when Todd tells him that the man has been released early and the opportunity presents itself. Does he have the nerve to go through with it?

Dina Berlyn-Hill was convincing as Megan, Tony’s ruthless second wife who becomes concerned about Tony’s growing obsession with his late wife, incorporating shadowy visions of her in the background of his ever-darkening paintings. She is apparently prepared to sanction her husband’s involvement in a dastardly crime – if only to get their marriage back on track.

Colin Bailey played the part of Slater, depicted by Todd as the reformed drunkard Sweeney arrested for Alison’s murder, but was he that man?

The action takes place in Tony Reed’s studio well reproduced by the set designers with a large window through which the surrounding park can be seen. Clever lighting showed the day slowly falling to dusk and then night to denote the passing of time.

Probably not the best Eric Chappell work but in her second stint as director, Janet Courtice did her best leading the hard-working cast with this strange play, being an odd mixture of farce and thriller but never quite attaining either.

Alison Smith

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