"Engaging and enjoyable gothic-tinged Victoriana"
by Andrew Taylor for remotegoat on 26/11/11

'Death Takes a Lover' is an intriguing gothic-tinged piece of Victoriana from writer Olivier Bosman.

The play follows police inspector John Billings (Liam Redican) as he stays in the house of a Yorkshire aristocrat as part of his investigation into the untimely death of her son Roger (Matt Martin). Billings gets a frosty reception from the dour Mrs Thornton (Jodyanne Richardson) and her rag-tag collection of domestic staff as they try to put him off the scent of the truth.

As Billings delves deeper into the salacious truth of the lives of both Roger and the Thornton's staff, more cracks and contradictions begin to appear in the official story of Roger's demise.

The story is a delivered as a series of recollections from the various members of the household and their serving staff who are reluctantly giving information to Billings for his enquiries. This structure is used to incorporate flashbacks into the play and give a glimpse into the key events in Roger Thornton's life, leading up to his untimely death.

The audience is gradually given a picture of the Thornton household as a dysfunctional collection of people hiding dark secrets under a thinly disguised façade. Throughout the play, Billings' own insecurities and personal troubles become more apparent. He is haunted by the memory of his dead wife and uses opium to soothe his troubled soul.

All of the key performers in 'Death Takes a Lover' work brilliantly together to create suspense and intrigue. The script captures the nature of the stilted relationships between aristocrats and the serving classes in Victorian Britain brilliantly.

'Death Takes a Lover' is a highly enjoyable slice Victoriana, fusing excellent characterisation with the clever usage of the stage space available. Elements of melodrama combine with a sometimes morose and gothic tone to brilliant effect. Highly recommended.

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