Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement In Stone, which comes to Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre at the end of the month, is just the sort of juicy whodunit that theatre audiences love and producer Bill Kenwright knows it.
His latest creation is The Classic Thriller Theatre Company which will perform the work of this country’s greatest crime writers.
Now touring the UK, stage and screen favourites Andrew Lancel and Deborah Grant talk to Stage Review about appearing in this celebrity ensemble production of A Judgement In Stone, one of Ruth Rendell’s finest works, that is about murder most foul and the great British class divide.
Andrew Lancel is best known to TV audiences for his portrayal of villainous businessman, Frank Foster, in Coronation Street which won him Villain of the Year in the British Soap Awards. He also played DI Neil Manson in over 300 episodes of The Bill.
On stage in 2016 Andrew starred as Captain Von Trapp in the UK Tour of The Sound of Music. He jumped at the chance of getting back his warrant card for A Judgement In Stone.
“I’ll be working with Roy Marsden and Bill Kenwright again. Also, it’s a whole new genre for me and the first time I have played a copper since The Bill.
“It’s my fourth Bill Kenwright in three years. I love the company and they put on things people want to see.
“A Judgement in Stone is a real statement on our class system. A fascinating story, sad, shocking and real. The horror at the centre of the crime in such a class divide”.
Working on stage has been a big learning curve for Lancel but one he enjoys, he says.
“It’s a huge difference, it’s chalk and cheese. The discipline is hugely different. I just want to get on with it, I know my lines now. So come on – let’s get the curtain up!
“But I’m learning more and more that it’s a process which I’m growing to love and when you’ve got someone like Roy Marsden up front, it makes a huge difference.
“His experience is so vast, you have to listen and take it on board. You don’t always have to agree but having a captain like that at the helm makes it enjoyable.
“It’s all about the part for me. I’ve had a nice long run with really good, usually intense characters, none more so than Epstein and Juror 3 in Twelve Angry Men.
“I’m very fortunate, whether it’s stage or telly or radio or singing, or whatever it is, as long as it’s interesting”.
Deborah Grant has starred in the BBC’s Not Going Out, Bergerac and Roger, Roger. She is also a stage veteran, making her first performance aged just four. Deborah has performed in a number of West End and national touring productions and starred opposite Michael Crawford in the West End debut of Barnum at the London Palladium.
She has known Bill Kenwright for years and looked forward to working with him again.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I bless the day I met him because he has kept me alive all these years (laughs). He’s wonderful and very sweet the way he keeps remembering us old ladies (laughs). He’s the best!”
A Judgement in Stone is widely considered to be Ruth Rendell’s greatest work – but what attracted Deborah?
“It has her usual strong and clever ‘Who Dunnit’ element – but she also captures the essence of England and English countryside as the seasons pass.
“It’s a very rich book, with so much more in atmosphere than we can show on stage. I read the book and was hooked immediately.
“My role of Joan Smith is a great character and a huge challenge. I couldn’t see at first how I could possibly play her. I was well out of my “comfort zone”.
“She’s quite a lively and outspoken woman. I think, as an actress, I have inevitable extrovert qualities. I’m also growing old disgracefully! I am also a churchgoer and have experience of the “Happy Clappy” churches.
“A good thing about touring is that one day it’s a new theatre, new everything and you spend the week getting used to the theatre, your digs, your dressing room. The play is a comfort, the only thing that stays relatively the same.
“Occasionally we hit theatres where the set becomes bizarre because it’s been squished into some new shape. The boredom doesn’t set in because you have to concentrate so hard (laughs).
“That’s the magic of touring though, you don’t get bored, the audiences are different, and the whole dynamic is different. Also, you might be sharing a dressing room with someone completely different each week, so it’s all good fun”.
A Judgement in Stone, also starring Sophie Ward, Shirley Anne Field, Mark Wynter, Antony Costa and Ben Nealon plays at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from May 30-June 3.
2017 Tour dates
May 2-6, Malvern Theatre, Malvern
May 8-13, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
May 15-20, Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
May 22-27, The Hawth Theatre, Crawley
May 30-June 3, Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury
June 5-10, Palace Theatre, Southend
June 12-17, Derby Theatre
June 19-24, Theatre Royal, Glasgow
June 26-July 1, New Victoria Theatre, Woking
July 3-8, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
July 10-15, Harrogate Theatre
July 17-22, Regent Theatre, Stoke
July 24-29, Milton Keynes Theatre
July 31-August 5, Theatre Royal, Newcastle
September 19-23, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
September 25-30, Orchard Theatre, Dartford.