First published in 1977, the adaptation to stage of Rendells ‘A Judgement in Stone’, was a tale of one of her most popular works to date. It highlighted the differences in class between The Coverdale family and the ‘paid help’ Eunice Parchman (Sophie Ward), that eventually had an impact on the cold blooded murder itself.

In many ways the adaptation to stage was demonstrated by being depicted in two different scenes. The scenes were essentially the lead up to the murder of The Coverdale family and then the aftermath and crime investigation by the Detectives (Andrew Lancel and Bill Nealon). The play interchanged between these two scenes throughout the night. Whilst this was useful for the audience in many ways to understand the plot, it would be pertinent to point out that the scenes seemed to change quite quickly and occasionally it was a challenge for an actor to leave a particular scene on time before the next scene commenced.

Special mention undoubtedly needs to go to Sophie Ward who played Eunice Parchman. Her role as Eunice highlighted not only the difference in class that was an underlying theme throughout the whole play but also an intense, bitter, defiance of acknowledging in public that she could not read or write. This was displayed when she was approached by Melinda Coverdale (Jennifer Sims). Eunice Parchmans anger and hatred of Melinda Coverdale, when she pointed out her weakness and furthermore shared it with her family, was transparent for all to see. The infuriation expressed by Eunice, on first impression a seemingly simple soul, was depicted in her bribery of Jaqueline. It was from this moment that Eunice’s character became more intense and complex.

Also, Jacqueline Coverdale played by Rosie Thomson, must also be credited with a consistent, steady performance of a woman who portrayed to the audience that she was clearly of a different class to her paid help but was doing all she could to integrate Eunice seamlessly in to her world.  She was meticulous in her middle class portrayal as Jaqueline and a delight to watch on stage.

Anthony Costa (previously of the pop group Blue) played the part of Roger Meadows in the adaptation and provided in parts a somewhat sluggish performance with some questionable accents that sounded almost Northern in parts and distinctly South West in other parts. However, he provided a more in depth part in the second half when his character, that was largely on the periphery of the first half, was allowed to flourish a little more.

The audience clearly consisted of many who were familiar with Rendell’s story and had potentially read her book beforehand. I couldn’t help consider whether the story may have flowed better if I had been more familiar with the story myself.  The play was produced by the talented and extremely accomplished Bill Kenwright and was undoubtedly a marvellous night out for crime lovers everywhere.

Reviewer: Angela Kelly

Reviewed: 17th July

North West End Rating: ★★★