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Thriller is singularly lacking in power

PUBLISHED: 09:20 02 May 2001 | UPDATED: 15:04 22 October 2010

Double Double @ Theatre Royal, Norwich

Double Double @ Theatre Royal, Norwich

By CHARLES ROBERTS

As thrillers go, Double Double tautens the nerve ends but rarely. The only real tension is in guessing ahead on where and when the inevitable twist in the tail will come.

Playwrights Eric Elice and Roger Rees spin out an elongated yarn which seems longer than it is. When wit and one-liners do come through, they are nicely crisp and on the ball, but there are precious few of them.

Direction, which might have tightened up proceedings, doesn't really help. The blocking out has the look of early rehearsals moves, which only occasionally spark into physical life and largely suggest a routine game of draughts on a pre-marked board. There is a strong feeling that director Michael Latimer has stood back from his two star players and diffidently watched them crafting the whole thing for themselves.

This is a two-hander tale in which underneath-the-arches tramp Duncan McFee (Simon Ward) is picked up by seemingly well-heeled lady Phillipa James (Anita Harris), and offered by her a tantalising proposition: Play for six days the role of my dead husband, of whom you're the spitting image, and you'll be half a million better off.

Miss Harris has a brilliant track record on television and cinema screens, and on the musical and dramatic stages. This fact serves only to disappoint when one analyses her approach to svelte and elegant Phillipa. In no time we have learned all Philippa's gestures, stances and theatrical knee bends, but are destined to see them repeated many times. Vocally, she can project with the best of them. But as Dorothy Parker might have observed, she runs through the entire gamut of vocal range and colours from A to B.

On the other hand, in a long, black, slinky dress with a sexy little train, she looks stunning, and glides like a star.

Mr Ward has always been a polished actor and that trait is in evidence here. Thus the progression from malodorous tramp to rich city slicker progresses entertainingly, the best lines are placed as neatly as Tiger's shots on to the green, and he effortlessly makes a touch of middle-aged romance spark brightly. Yet still the whole thing is somehow under-powered.

Copyright Charles Roberts 2001


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