The Business of Murder

Studio Theatre’s unconventional thriller leaves you guessing ’til the end

As any seasoned theatre-goer knows, murder mysteries generally start off with a Bang! then wend their duplicitous way, via clues and misdirects, to the doorstep of the murderer. It’s a comfortable, time-honoured formula.

But don’t get too comfortable…

The Business of Murder, premiering September 6th at Perth’s Studio Theatre, is a murder mystery that, yes, leaves you guessing breathlessly to the end, but does so in an intriguingly unconventional way. Written by the great Richard Harris (the screenwriter famous for A Touch of Frost and The Avengers, not the Guinness-loving Irish actor) this thriller features just three actors. With such a slim cast it’s a safe bet that all three will somehow get their hands dirty. But what shape will their infamy take?

Trying to whet an audience’s appetite for a murder mystery is tricky: give too much detail and you betray the plot, too little and you don’t set the hook. Suffice it to say that The Business of Murder is a tantalizing stew comprised of murder, revenge and betrayal, with other delicious bits of intrigue thrown in for spice. The play’s director, Lucas Tennant, who recently helmed the Studio Theatre’s wildly successful production of the thriller The Game’s Afoot, says he’s never seen a plot quite like this one.

The Business of Murder is a mystery that even the venerable Sherlock Holmes would have had trouble unravelling, or his arch nemesis Moriarty concocting,” says Tennant.”Just when you think you’ve figured it out, one of the characters puts a new puzzle piece on the table. It keeps you guessing, like a riddle you just have to crack, or a great book you can’t put down.”

The setup is deceptively simple: Stone, a grim, humourless man, invites Dee, a young female television playwright, to his flat on the pretence of discussing a script. Once there, she is surprised when Superintendent Hallett, the man with whom she is having an affair, also arrives, but for an entirely different reason. Nothing is as it appears, and as the plot twists and turns, Stone’s motive for convening this baffling assembly is gradually revealed. They are all, it would seem, in the same business: the business of murder.

“Like any good thriller, there are several different facets to this mystery,” says director Tennant. “Your head will spin, but you’ll enjoy the ride!”

Pulling the levers and pushing the buttons are three of the Studio Theatre’s most seasoned actors: Hugh McCulloch (Wait Until Dark, On A First Name Basis, Mousetrap) stars as the enigmatic Mr. Stone; Annie West (Romantic Comedy, Murder By The Book) is screenwriter Dee; and Grey Masson (Old Love, The Cemetery Club, London Suite) plays Inspector Hallett. The play is produced and Stage Managed by Jane Stott, and the Assistant Stage Manager is newcomer Nicole Terbruge. The set is designed by Reiner Silberhorn and dressed by Rayna Critchley and Annie West. Props are coordinated by Donna Sproule.

The Business of Murder premieres at the Studio Theatre on Thursday, September 6th for seven performances, Sept. 6, 7, 8, 14 & 15 at 7:30 pm and September 2 & 9 at 2 pm. Advance tickets are $24 at Tickets Please in the Matheson House Museum Visitor Centre, 11 Gore St. E. (613 485-6434ticketsplease.ca; in-store, phone, online and credit card purchases) and at the Studio Theatre box office on show nights. Rush tickets for Students with ID are just $10 at the door, subject to availability. Attend opening night and save $5!

With just three characters, you’ll be tempted to think The Business of Murder is an easy puzzle to solve. Of course, you’d be dead wrong. Don’t miss your chance to be turned, twisted, spun and hoodwinked by this refreshingly unconventional, thoroughly intriguing thriller. For full details (but not the solution!) visit studiotheatreperth.com.

PHOTO CAPTION:

In rehearsal: Hugh McCulloch as Mr. Stone menaces young playwright Dee in Richard Harris’s The Business of Murder, opening Thursday, September 6th at the Studio Theatre. Please visit studiotheatreperth.com for more information.

Article by Paul Joyce / Photo by Bruce Raby