Actor Robert Daws is getting a taste for murder. After playing a trecherous husband in The Perfect Murder he’s now starring opposite his real life wife, Amy Robbins, in Rehearsal For Murder that’s now touring the UK.
Bill Kenwright’s new production, which was a successful movie with Jeff Goldblum, comes from the pen of the legendary award-winning writing team Levinson and Link, whose work includes the mystery series Murder, She Wrote and Columbo.
Daws and Robbins (who appeared together in ITV’s vintage medic-soap, The Royal) are joined by Robert Duncan, Susan Penhaligon and Ben Nealon, Brookside’s Steven Pinder and Lucy Dixon from Waterloo Road.
Playwright Alex Dennison is left heartbroken when his fiancée and leading lady Monica Welles is found dead from an apparent suicide. On the anniversary of that ill-fated night, Alex assembles the same cast and crew in the same theatre, for a reading of his new play. But as the reading begins, it becomes clear that Alex believes that Monica was murdered and he intends to uncover her killer…
Robert and Amy, who live near Ampthill, in Bedfordshire, have both worked for Kenwright before and were delighted to both be asked to appear together on stage for the first time. Here they talk to Stage Review about their part in the thriller.
Said Robert: “I worked with him about 15 years ago and here we are again. They very kindly came to us about this play, offered us the parts and we looked at it and thought, this is an interesting piece.
“And the fact they offered it to us together made a big difference because we can look after each other a bit.
“And we can take the kids with us!” added Amy.
Robert went on: “The play is considerably different from the film – the play is set in the West End and not on Broadway as it originally was.
“It’s about a writer called Alex Dennison who has a relationship with Monica Welles who’s a film star who’s decided to give up film stardom in Hollywood and move back to London. Alex has this play, a stylish comedy of manners with a perfect part for Monica Welles.
“It’s a thriller set in theatreland, it’s as simple as that, and the leading lady seemingly commits suicide but Alex is convinced that’s not the case, he thinks she’s been murdered, so he sets about investigating the possibility she’s been murdered”.
Said Amy: “So it’s the first night and Monica is found dead. She’s fallen off her balcony. And the play is based a year later when Alex sets about trying to find out, with the help of the original cast, to find out what happened to her, how she died, as he suspects one of them has killed her”.
Robert and Amy met when Daws turned up in the set of The Royal for his first day of filming.
“Yes, we met on the job, so to speak,” added Amy. “And we were married by the end of the first series. And because we were married in real life, they wrote it into the plot of the show”.
“We pretty much honeymooned on set, didn’t we? Did we get a honeymoon actually? Didn’t we have about four days off between episode seven and eight?” joked Robert.
Amy went on: “We did indeed. And we’ve been married 13 years now. It’s nice we can do this together because usually, if one of us is away filming or on tour, it usually means great stretches away from the family so we thought this would be nice. And it’s what we’re used to because of how we met. People often ask us if it’s difficult working together and I say it’s mostly what we know”.
Said Robert: “For eight years on The Royal our two girls were born and brought up with it so the kids are steeped in the whole process of the industry, their early years were brought up in hotel rooms and unit bases in strange locations.
“There’s a line in the play about theatre being a different animal, and it really is. We don’t do nearly as much theatre as we do TV or radio so when you come back to theatre you’re using different muscles, both mentally and physically, so it takes a little bit of time to get stage fit in that respect, but it’s part of the challenge and it’s an enjoyable process. It’s a nice company and Roy (Marsden) is a terrific director so we feel very comfortable”.
Robert is a published crime writer author so this play is right up his street. “Oh yes, very much so. I write crime novels and I have an interest in thrillers and mystery anyway, so there’s that slightly dorkish element to these things for me. I get to read a lot in any given year and what struck me with Rehearsal for Murder is that it’s a very clever piece.
“And it was unusual in its form because it’s a free flowing story, and while it’s set on the stage, there’s something very theatrical and different about it. And it really caught my attention”.
Said Amy: “He’s fantastic to watch whodunits with because he can spot the murderer within seconds and I’m always the last one to guess! Because he knows how they’re constructed because he constructs them himself, so it was a genre he was interested in anyway and I just thought I might get a couple of nice frocks out of it (laughs)”.
On reading the script for Rehearsal for Murder, did you guess the conclusion?
“No, actually, this one genuinely surprised me,” said Robert. “I thought, ooh, that’s a well disguised googly, as they say in cricket. I was very surprised. And this is what I think is great about this play is that it does exist in lots of different dimensions.
“It plays with time very, very well and there’s a lot going on, so hopefully the audience will feel as though they’ve been on a real journey of discovery punctuated by some very big surprises. It’s a great piece with some very colourful characters and it’s such a great company to be working with”.
Rehearsal for Murder is touring until September. For all 2016 tour dates go to www.kenwright.com/microsite/rehearsal-for-murder/#booktickets