Consequences, by Duncan Battman

Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

Jigsaw puzzle murder

Edinburgh 10 – Sweet Grassmarket – 5-15 August­­ 2010 – 14.35 (1:10)

Consequences is an intriguing and thought-provoking play from writer Duncan Battman which stubbornly refuses to yield its secrets.

The occasionally darkly-comic drama opens with two policemen arriving at a house to discover the rotting body of an elderly man.  The younger policeman, Danny (Mark Butt), finds a suicide note in the fridge confessing to the murder of a prostitute – a crime which was attributed to a local man who later committed suicide in jail.  Alan (Martin Pritchard), Danny’s sergeant, was involved in the original case but insists that the procedure of the day was followed, much to the disgust of his younger colleague.

The story is taken up by the apparent murderer, a librarian called Norman (Tony Broughton), who appears on stage in a spotlight – an apparent ghost – who explains how he ingeniously hid the body and his need to “attempt to put things right” with his confession.

He is joined by the spirit of Cilla (Sarah Roberts), the dead prostitute, and they tell how the unlikely pair met when Cilla found refuge in Norman’s library, hiding from the drug dealers she owed money to.  Norman agrees to let her stay at his house, where he lives alone following his mother’s death a decade earlier, and their friendship begins to grow.  It is only whent they start to become close that the possible reasons behind Cilla’s grisly end begin to become apparent.

As this tale is told the action occasionally flits back to the policeman arguing over the morality of destroying the confession and the multiple victims of the crime.  Stark contrast is made between the modern police force and the way suspects were treated in the good/bad old days.

The writing is sparky and effortlessly moves between the two plots without ever becoming confusing.  Duncan Battman shows a fine ear for language, with natural and unforced making all the characters three-dimensional and absolutely believable.  There is not an ounce of flab in the whole performance – with each line advancing the story or the ongoing moral battles taking place withing the minds of the protagonists.

The cast are uniformly exemplary, but Tony Broughton stands out, instilling the spirit of Norman with great dignity, undertones of sadness and the occasional spark of menace.

The set is a simple affair, mocking up a kitchen where all the action takes place, while lighting is cleverly utilised to switch between the two levels of the story.

The conclusion of the play is somewhat sudden and leaves much unresolved but is no less satisfying for that. It is a jigsaw puzzle of a performance and it is satisfying to try to piece together all the possible conclusions.

Cast Credits: Tony Broughton – Norman.  Mark Butt – Danny.  Martin Pritchard – Alan.  Sarah Roberts – Cilla.

Company Credits: Writer – Duncan Battman.  Director – Mark Butt.  Assistant Director – Val Watkinson.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Friday 15 August / Sweet Grassmarket, Edinburgh, UK

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