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A Judgement In Stone at Wolverhampton Grand

We reviewed the current production of 'A Judgement In Stone' earlier in its run. This review is an updated version of a previously published one.

A Judgement In Stone is a stage adaptation of the 1977 novel by British writer Ruth Rendell - widely considered to be one of her greatest works. The novel has been acclaimed as a keen social examination of the differences between British classes in the 1970s and the stage version stays true to the story as much as possible.

First thing's first; this story is distinctly a thriller rather than a whodunnit. Don't expect to spend 2 hours trying to work out who's responsible for the murder of an upper class family in their stately home - it's fairly evident from the beginning. A Judgement In Stone doesn't set out to create a plot that asks you to play detective, rather it explores reasoning and justification for an event taking place and the mindset of the protagonist who carries out the deed.

The action on stage takes place, as many similar pieces do, within a single set. However the production makes interesting use of flashbacks and subtle lighting changes to explore the storyline far more satisfactorily than simply referencing past scenarios. 

Eunice Parchman (Sophie Ward) is taken on as a housekeeper by a family of four. She has kept her illiteracy a secret and is obsessed by continuing to keep it so. Ward plays the part exquisitely, with a characterisation which begins as timid and borders on psychotic by the end of the piece. The subtlety with which she portrays Eunice's eccentricity is to be applauded - it's something which could easily be exaggerated too much. However there's much we don't learn about Eunice which is present in the novel - in the book it's revealed that she has already murdered the father for whom she had been caring and she falsified her references.

Mark Wynter and Rosie Thomson play well rounded parts as Mr and Mrs Coverdale respectively, alongside Jennifer Simms and Joshua Price as their two children; Giles and Melinda

It is Eunice's inability to adapt to her place in society and misinterpretation of every act of kindness she is offered by her employers which leads to her downfall. It's also Detective Superintendent Vetch (Andrew Lancel) and DS Challoner (Ben Nealon) who are tasked with solving the 'mystery' - a task they portray beautifully with both being a very safe pair of hands.

Overall the production was well produced and of a high standard. Ruth Rendell is, without doubt, one of the most highly regarded crime writers that's ever been published however there was a sense that parts of the show were lacking. Where the action stopped tonight, the novel often gave extra detail - not so much that the piece was lacking, or hard to follow, but enough to remove certain elements of context and depth of understanding.

If you're not a fan of Rendell or this genre of shows, please don't let that put you off - I don't imagine for a second you'll leave the theatre disappointed.

A Judgement In Stone runs at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 8th July 2017.

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