DEAD RINGER by Charles Ross
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
Set in the 1980s and on the eve of a General Election in the PM's study at No.10, the fictional PM, Randolph Bolton has a heart attack in front of his cabinet colleagues. What are they to do? They are ahead in the polls and this is the last thing the cabinet members expected, or needed, not just for their party but for themselves as well. All they need is some way to make the country think that nothing has happened to the Prime Minister, just until he has been confirmed the election winner.
Fortunately Ms Frances Cowdrey, the Minister for the Arts, has a brain wave and she remembers an actor she once saw who was a dead ringer for Bolton and offers him the role of his acting career. He decides that the money for this gig is just too good to turn down and takes the role, but all is not as it seems behind the doors of No. 10 when Colonel Hardacre of MI5 reveals that Bolton's heart attack may not be quite as it first appeared!
This is a brilliant comedy/thriller which will keep you guessing right to the very end. A classy whodunnit with several twists along the way and possibly one of the best murder mysteries I've seen.
Prime Minister Bolton, and of course the dead ringer is played by Lace Market Theatre regular Jason Wrightam, and possibly one of the best performances I've seen from Jason. Can't say too much about the character of Gerry Jackson the PM lookalike as there may be more to his role than meets the eye, but to see what that may, or may not be, you'll have to see the play.
Home Secretary Dick Marr is at first reluctant to go along with the dead ringer idea but is soon in over his wallet. Brilliantly acted by John Parker, and he still reminds me of Leonard Rossiter, especially with a nod to one of Mr Rossiter's characters snuck into the play as well for the sharp eyed and eared.
Bex Mason, always real joy to watch, as Ms Cowdrey. This character got me changing my mind so many times,as all good thrillers should do, A real tribute to the character, the script and of course the actor for making the audience believe in the character, her motives and what she had to gain....or lose from Bolton's death.
Andrew Haynes, played the thorn in every one's side in the play, Ray Turnbull, the Foreign Secretary. He's the one who looked to have had the most to gain from the PM's passing, well at least from his political standing anyway.
And then there's Bolton's wife, Eva. They weren't getting on too well in their private life, but what would she gain from his untimely death, apart from freedom from what we assume to be a loveless marriage?
The PM had a Private Secretary and Nigel Harwood was played by Vejay Pal. The scenes between Bolton and Harwood were similar to the scenes on "Little Britain" between David Walliams and Anthony Head, but not as overtly camp. From the start you got the idea that there was something more than a working relationship going off there, and this also inadvertently adds to the comedy element of the play.
Finally to Colonel Hardacre of MI5, the man who opened the proverbial can of worms. Hardacre was played with great authority by Craig Russell.
So, was this just a tragic accident after all, and if not how did he really die, and who did it. There are six possible suspects but if he was murdered, then why, and who really had the most to gain?
Find out by seeing "Dead Ringer" at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre all this week until Saturday 23 May 2015