There is murder afoot at The New Brighton Floral Pavilion next week and a star studded cast of actors trying to work out who did what to whom and why. Rehearsal for Murder, written by Columbo and Murder, She Wrote creators Richard Levinson and William Link, stars amongst others Robert Daws, Amy Robbins, Susan Penhaligon and former Crossroads and Brookside star Steven Pinder from Monday March 14th.
Playwright Alex Dennison is left heartbroken when his fiancée and leading lady Monica Welles is found dead from an apparent suicide after the opening night of her stage debut. On the anniversary of that ill-fated night, Alex assembles the same cast and crew in the same theatre, for a reading of his new play. But as the reading progresses, the play’s similarity to actual events becomes increasingly uncomfortable for the participants, and it soon becomes clear that Alex believes Monica was murdered and his new play is a devious cat-and-mouse chase to uncover her killer.
“The play is set in a theatre, we all play theatre luvvies and I’m playing the Director of the original play who has now been summoned back to the same theatre after a year, to hear this new play which quickly becomes something it doesn’t at first appear to be,” Steven explained ahead of appearing in New Brighton. “It is loosely based on an American TV script but we have changed this one into a British setting, with Bill Kenwright producing, as he has for the past ten years or so with The Agatha Christie Theatre Company shows. This is a new production company though, The Classic Thriller Theatre Company, and this is its first production.”
The cast certainly boasts some seasoned and experienced performers which is something Steven is thoroughly enjoying. “The last time you interviewed me was in Birmingham ahead of my appearing in the touring production of Wicked, so it is quite nice not being the oldest member of the cast,” Steven laughed. “When I mention that I did Crown Court back in the 80s, the guys in this play just smile fondly because they’ve probably been in it themselves, whereas the kids in Wicked would most often look at you blankly.”
Does being in the debut production for The Classic Thriller Theatre Company bring its own pressures? “In a way, I suppose, but it’s good that I know Susan Penhaligon and Rob Duncan and have done for a long time. It’s also really nice to come back to working for Bill, as well, because it has been around 10 years since I last did so in a Somerset Maugham play, but it is great – and I am not just saying this either – but a lot of the cast are really looking forward to playing The Floral Pavilion, myself included. I have only ever appeared there before in a cabaret night a while ago now, so it’ll be great to finally be in a play there, especially as the Wirral audiences like their thrillers so much.”
And Rehearsal for Murder not only boasts a fine cast, but also one of TVs finest actors and most recognizable faces, Roy Marsden, as Director. “Although Roy is probably best remembered for playing Inspector Adam Dalgliesh in the P.D. James series, he has been directing plays for quite a number of years and ran the Westcliffe Theatre down in Southend for a while, which is where this leg of the tour finishes, so Roy has a wealth of experience upon which to draw. I think everybody has their own style. With this particular play, in terms of the blocking of the piece, there are 11 actors in the cast so the stage can get pretty crowded. What Roy has done so well is given everybody their own space which in many ways is almost like directing a dance at times.”
So is directing something Steven would like to do in the future? “Unfortunately I think I would be one of those terrible directors who would always want to get on stage and do it themselves, which really isn’t very helpful to anybody. To be honest, I’ve never really felt the need to jump of the front of the stage and take a seat in the auditorium because I genuinely enjoy acting so much.”
The last time Steven appeared on stage on Merseyside was at The Liverpool Empire during the extensive touring production of Wicked, which saw him playing Doctor Dillamond across the country. “That was a long, long tour and the whole staging of it was hugely expensive and the attention to detail, particularly with regards to the costume design, was extraordinary. It was all really good fun to be a part of, though, and The Empire is one of the nicest, big theatres in which to play so being able to perform there was a real highlight, and I have no doubt whatsoever that it will be the same performing at The Floral Pavilion in New Brighton.”
Rehearsal for Murder runs at The New Brighton Floral Pavilion from Monday March 14 – Saturday March 20. For Tickets & Information: https://www.floralpavilion.com/en-GB/shows/rehearsal%20for%20murder/events