In The Grass
In The Grass is Alan Ayckbourn's 2002 try at a Sleuth-style thriller.
Ayckbourn is a great writer and incapable of failure, but the mode
doesn't seem to have inspired his imagination much, and his version
plays like a bland anthology of tricks and effects borrowed from
would have to
have never seen Sleuth, Deathtrap, Diobolique or any stage thriller
written in the past forty years not to be able to anticipate all of
this play's plot twists, and while being ahead of the playwright every
step of the way offers some satisfaction, it's really not enough.
brings a woman home after 35 years to discover that the sister who
stayed behind as carer murdered the old man and is being blackmailed by
a nurse who has proof.
don't want to
give too much away, but when we are told early in the play that one of
the sisters has a bad heart or that one has been studying electrical
wiring, or when our attention is called to an old well in a corner of
the set, you may not be able to write the whole rest of the play from
there, but very little that happens is going to surprise you.
that isn't strictly by-the-numbers is an extended sequence in which the
sisters tell each other unhappy things about their pasts. Aside from
confirming what we've already figured out, that one of them is a
monster raving loony, it feels like irrelevant padding.)
doesn't even seem to have had much fun playing with the genre. His name
might suggest a comedy, and some in the audience come in primed to
laugh at every line until they begin to realise that they're not jokes.
But the nearest thing to a gag - 'Did you push him down the stairs?' 'A
little bit.' - is not Ayckbourn-class humour and sits uncomfortably in
the ploddingly serious style of the rest.
only way to
play this sort of tosh is absolutely seriously, and it is a credit to
director Lucy Bailey and her actors, Susan Wooldridge, Mossie Smith and
Sarah Woodward, that they do not attempt to protect themselves with an
ironic distance, but play it full out, as if they believed in it
is the performances, and not the material, that carry the evening.
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- Snake In The Grass - Print Room 2011