Blood Money – Lichfield Garrick Theatre – Review

Blood Money – Lichfield Players

Lichfield Garrick Studio Theatre

Tuesday 1 May 2018

The latest production from the Lichfield Players is ‘Blood Money’, a dark thriller written by The Heather Brothers and performed in the Studio Theatre at the Garrick.
I’d not heard of this play before but that was a bonus as it has lots of twists, turns and ‘jump out at you’ surprises so trying to play Hercule Poirot and guess the end was all part of the performance.

The action was all set in the home of Mike and Liz Mason, a warring couple on the edge of a marriage break-up (or on the edge of strangling each other) who only keep their rocky relationship above water due to a deadly secret that they both share – seven years ago they were involved in a drunken hit and run car accident when they killed a young girl, Carol Mitchell. Mike is a host of a long running cheesy TV show, Bargain Basement, and was on the way back from a TV Awards ceremony when the accident happened and although it is a distant memory that they have tried to keep to themselves it looks as though someone wants to uncover their shameful secret.
Thrown into the marital ‘bliss’ is sexy next door neighbour Sue who has a crush on Mike, despite being half his age and also the slightly mysterious Julie who, initially,  is heard on the phone and not seen but clearly has the hots for Mike too.
As Mike prepares to attend the latest Awards Ceremony accompanied by a drunk and potentially reputation-destroying Liz the presumed deceased Carol Mitchell seems to step out of the grave and come back to haunt Mike and Liz through phone calls and messages scrawled on walls. When Julie finally appears on the scene as the doctor looking after the emotionally scarred and therapy-seeking Liz all of the key players are thrown into the mix. Jealousy, revenge, mental torture and blood lust all combine in a frenzy of cross and double cross, twist and turn, done it and whodunit until the final, shocking, nerve jangling denouement – but will anyone survive? Who is the victim and who is the killer – and will Carol Mitchell really come back from the grave?

Blood Money is firmly split into two acts, Act One sets the scene of the warring, and philandering, husband and wife, explaining why the couple hate each other and why Mike is so keen to rush into the arms of any woman he meets. It’s clearly a thriller but has lots of dark humour running through it as Mike and Liz spar with each other relentlessly – with shades of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ there are plenty of tart retorts and observational humour to admire.
Act Two is much darker as the plot and mood thicken and it becomes a taut physiological thriller with cat-and-mouse plot manoeuvres, threats, violence and edge of the seat ‘he’s behind you’ moments. Gunshots, bangs, crashes, screams and lights ‘off and on’ add to the menacing mood and the nerves jangle both on the stage and in the audience.
The four performers are all excellent with Andy Jones (last seen as a policeman in The Lady Killers) superb as the bitter, world weary, stuck in a rut TV host looking for his next break and looking to break his marriage to the increasingly paranoid Liz. Sue Evans, who was also in The Lady Killers, is fantastic as the caustic emotionally battered wife Liz, fed up with the multiple affair-seeking Mike and determined to ruin both his big night out at the Awards Ceremony and ruin his extra-marital relationships. Lichfield Players debutant Alex Dziegiel plays the next door neighbour that every philandering male would want living next to him with aplomb and Sarah Stanley (last seen in the anti-Christmas play ‘A Kick in the Baubles’) as the seemingly caring and compassionate family doctor is superb as her doctor’s mask slips to reveal something much more sinister.
Special mention must be given to the performances of Sue Evans and Sarah Stanley in Act Two as the tension ramps up and the plot, and their characters’ minds, gradually unravel and it descends into a nightmare cocktail of accusation, revelation and recrimination. Their performances dominate the stage and the feelings of frustration, anger, fear and hatred that they show in what are very demanding, both emotionally and physically, circumstances are very moving and truly believable – full five star marks to both actors.

The production values are up to the usual high standard at the Garrick Theatre and the lighting, sound effects and set all help the Studio audience enjoy the almost ‘on stage with the actors’ experience. Director Charlie Barker draws fantastic performances from all four actors and provides the perfect balance from the drama mixed with humour of Act One to the dark and brooding menace of Act Two with great skill.

This is a great way to spend an evening at your local theatre – the cast, direction and production are all first class and the play is moving, funny, dark, sad, dangerous and emotionally charged. I won’t spoil the ending for you but it will make you sit up in your seats – it left me with genuine goose bumps and I had to calm the nerves with a strong drink at a local hostelry.

Blood Money will, at times, chill your blood and is definitely great value for money – I would definitely recommend that you give it a run for your money!

Blood Money is on at the Studio at The Lichfield Garrick, on from Wednesday 2 May to Saturday 5 May at 7.45pm, with a matinee on Saturday 5 May at 2.30pm**

Tickets priced at £13.50, to book visit the Lichfield Garrick Box Office during usual opening hours, ring 01543 412121  email: garrick@lichfieldgarrick.comor book online at: www.lichfieldgarrick.com

** Performance contains strong language, violence, loud sounds and visual effects

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