Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Post-war puzzler is a timely reminder

This curious mystery thriller, set in the post-war Home Counties, was a taut and suspense-filled exploration of just how easily a man's life can collapse and unravel in a few short steps and spaces of time

Home at Seven
Theatre Royal, Windsor
Monday, September 12

This curious mystery thriller, set in the post-war Home Counties, was a taut and suspense-filled exploration of just how easily a man's life can collapse and unravel in a few short steps and spaces of time.

David Preston returns home from work at 7pm as usual. However, his wife is upset and worried and it is apparently 24 hours on from the 7pm he thinks it is. He appears to be suffering from amnesia, and to add to his woes, various signals point to his possible involvement in a murder that took place in that time gap. In addition, it becomes clear that at least one hour a day of Preston's life has been 'disappearing' already...

This being suburban Britain in the Forties, there are no mobile phones, websites or 24-hour news channels, so all the tension is neatly conveyed through knocks at the door, telephone rings of the old-fashioned kind, and pregnant pauses.

David is a self-professed creature of habit and a very particular, fastidious man who pays attention to detail, thrives on routine and likes his cup-and-a-half of tea in the morning. As he explains his bafflement at the loss of a whole day, his wife, his doctor, the police and a fellow member of a local club join forces to try and fill in the blanks.

It was a masterstroke to cast Brian Capron, aka Coronation Street's notorious villain Richard Hillman, in the lead role. Even those who aren't familiar with the soap are more than aware of this award-winning baddie, so this added to the sense of ambivalence regarding his innocence. That said, here Capron has created a very likeable, amiable and believable Preston, so the audience was rooting for him throughout, with some audible expressions of concern in the tenser scenes.

With Jenny Funnell as his devoted wife, Janet, and a strong surrounding cast carrying out the detective work, there were some deft touches, such as the poignancy of Inspector Hemingway requesting some of Preston's beautiful chrysanthemums, and the huff and puff of Major Watson, who has some misgivings about exactly who was embroiled in what at their club.

The stage and costumes took us back to the days where milk floats were pulled by horses, men wore hats, women wore gloves and this civility was vital to a shell-shocked nation recovering from war. This story was an intriguing little puzzle.

Home at Seven is at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, until Saturday.

Review by Natalie Aldred

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