Review: Cadfael whodunnit on Derby stage

cadfaelARTSBEAT REVIEW: Adapting a complex Cadfael murder mystery into a stage production has to be a major challenge and a brave one to take on.

With an audience used to seeing Ellis Peters’ Medieval monk turned sleuth on television there was always a risk too many comparisons would be made.

Maybe that’s why the adapter, director and designer Michael Lunney felt it necessary to use film to link some of the scenes in this production of The Virgin In the Ice.

The back projection was used to good effect and the Middle Ground Theatre Company production should score points for its clever sets and realistic snow storm however there did seem to be a few hold-your-breath moments when the props, created to cope with the multitude of scene changes, played up.

The story surrounds Cadfael’s attempt to find an orphaned brother and sister of noble stock who have fled from the civil war sweeping Worcester accompanied by a young nun.

They went missing en route and somehow all three of them become separated. The 12th century Poirot eventually discovers a body frozen in the ice and we are presented with a traditional whodunit in a monastery setting.

Who is the frozen woman, how did she die and why was Brother Elyas beaten and left for dead?

Gareth Thomas (of Blake 7 and London’s Burning fame) is well cast as the detective and he is well supported by the rest of the 16 strong team – in particular George Telfer as the injured Brother Elyas.

The best part of the whole play though has to have been the beautiful music which instantly set the scene. The Gregorian chanting transported the audience straight to a Benedictine monastery.

The world premiere of the play was staged to mark the 25th anniversary of the theatre company and is touring across the UK.

It is at Derby Theatre until Saturday at 7.30pm each evening an with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm. Go to http://www.derbytheatre.co.uk to book tickets.