FROM the gory opening scene to the final double twist, Royalty audiences were gripped by Kiss of Death, a tense thriller by Simon Williams.
In a convoluted tale, detectives Brocklebank and Bernard are reduced to undercover and underhand methods to try and stop The Surgeon, a dangerous serial killer preying on young women.
Deliciously over-the-top characterisation and strategically placed shock tactics are lightened by some decidedly black humour as Zoe (Laura Robinson), a feisty and self-confident modern woman, strides on to a set reminiscent of a derelict industrial unit.
Her sarcastic one-liners are deftly parried by Bernard (Mik Richardson), whose terse yes/no answers, and vaguely odd manner, introduce a more sinister element as they wait for Brocklebank.
Channelling Jack Lord and David Caruso, Rob Lawson stalks the stage, pausing now and then to pose artistically as he auditions Zoe to be a potential victim.
And then we meet Lee Stewart’s John Smith – masked and latex gloved, and mad as a box of frogs – in his filthy lair. Is that arterial spray crudely smeared across the wall? Our heroine begins to realise that she may be in serious danger.
Her self-confidence turns to terror as John Smith reveals he knows about the plot. Watch out for the scene with the bucket – all Lee needed was a glass of Chianti.
The talented young cast are well supported by imaginative sets and technical wizardry. Even a couple of minor hiccups didn’t spoil the build-up of tension and fear as the story plays out.
Directors Irene Lathan and Andy Barella have an unusual and entertaining hit on their hands.
Very well done to all concerned in last week’s production.