Tag Archives: Max Ringham

A Dead Body in Taos

A Dead Body in Taos


Wilton’s Music Hall

A DEAD BODY IN TAOS at the Wilton’s Music Hall


A Dead Body in Taos

“Rachel Bagshaw’s direction moves the action backwards and forwards with an efficient pace and energy, but we do occasionally get bogged down in explanation”


“When they called saying your body had been found, I had one immediate thought. I remember thinking that maybe now I’d be free”. These are the first words that Sam (Gemma Lawrence) speaks to her mother Kath (Eve Ponsonby) in over three years. Sam has just arrived in the small town of Taos in the New Mexico desert to identify the body. The freedom to which Sam is referring is obviously emotional rather than physical as there seems to have been little communication between mother and daughter up to this point. Nevertheless, Sam would still be seeking some sort of closure, and conversations with the deceased are often consoling.

Not so for Sam. She’s not talking to a corpse, but a mechanical representation of her mother aged thirty-five, into which her mother’s memories, emotions and biographical data have been uploaded. But sadly, not a lot of her personality. Artificial Intelligence has been taken to its technological, moral and unsettling extreme and we are invited to question the nature of death and human consciousness. But before we have much of a chance, we are whisked back to Kath’s student days where there is much talk about the 1968 protests, Vietnam, Cambodia and changing the world. In writer David Farr’s world, it is peopled with caricatures whose urgency and fervour seem to be being lampooned. The link to the present is a touch tenuous, but on the stage the two settings are constantly rubbing shoulders with each other in the revolving doors of a confusing narrative. We are not really sure where to invest our interest.

The dichotomy suits Sam though. Gemma Lawrence is a very watchable presence, particularly when she begins to thaw and engage with her mother’s posthumous identity. Initially outraged, she warms to the idea and we, in turn, warm to the general theme of the piece. Farr explores the flip side of Artificial Intelligence. The Future Life Corporation, where Kath is recreated, focuses on the ‘unintelligence’. The flaws that make us human. It’s not just about synthesising data, but also the false hopes, the self-delusion; the layers of deception inherent in us all. The mess and the chaos. And the unspoken love.

It is a very wordy, and at times worthy, play. Rachel Bagshaw’s direction moves the action backwards and forwards with an efficient pace and energy, but we do occasionally get bogged down in explanation. The use of surtitles is questionable and sometimes distracting and unnecessary. The performances cannot be faulted. Eve Ponsonby’s Kath seamlessly flits from her ardent past to the robotic present, and Clara Onyemere’s portrayal of Tristana Cortez – the humanely pragmatic supervisor at the Future Life Corporation – is one of the highlights of the evening.

The crux of the issues remains unanswered – as they probably always will be. “How do you create a person who has no idea who they are?” asks Cortez. “A Dead Body in Taos”, despite containing some insightful dialogue, doesn’t quite know what it is either. Like some of the scenes there are too many voices vying to be heard. We long to have our focus tied to a stronger lead. Perhaps that is the reason behind the surtitles after all.


Reviewed on 27th October 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Helen Murray


Wilton's Music Hall thespyinthestalls


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Roots | ★★★★★ | October 2021
The Child in the Snow | ★★★ | December 2021
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | February 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | June 2022
Patience | ★★★★ | August 2022



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Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder


Cambridge Arts Theatre

Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder

Cambridge Arts Theatre & UK Tour

Reviewed – 5th October 2021



“Diana Vickers’ performance is sublime”


Retired tennis player Tony (Tom Chambers) hatches a plan to murder his society wife Margot (Diana Vickers) in revenge for her affair with film script writer Max (Michael Salami), requiring Inspector Hubbard (Christopher Harper) to investigate the ensuing proceedings. But that’s enough of the plot of this early genre-defining murder mystery – there are no spoilers here.

For a show that takes a telephony reference for its title – NB. for younger audience members, the letter M was included with the number 6 on an old-style telephone dial – it is no surprise that the telephone, positioned centre stage, has an important role in this play. A pity that the sound effect of the telephone ringing is rather underwhelming and that the too similar sound of the doorbell, on occasions, causes confusion.

All the action takes place in the living room of Tony and Margot’s Maida Vale flat (Designer David Woodhead). A large sofa takes up centre stage, the front door to the apartment at the rear and a pair of French windows to the side leading out past some fine-looking greenery into the sun-lit garden. It is up to Margot and the semi-undressed Max to set the scene for us. With a lot of narrative to get through, and whilst facing up-stage, some of Michael Salami’s diction is not completely clear. Diana Vickers’ performance is sublime. Her text is beautifully precise and, over the course of the evening, we see her turn convincingly through a range of emotions from the alluringly flirtatious to the hysterically distraught.

It is mentioned that Margot enjoys staying in to watch plays on TV, which is a nice touch as this play by Frederick Knott received its first public airing as an episode of BBC Sunday-Night Theatre back in 1952. It was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film adaptation, with a BAFTA winning performance by Grace Kelly, that brought fame to the play and the lighting design (Lizzie Powell) pays homage to this with beautifully cast shadow effects onto the white walls. Another effect of dipping the central lighting in the room at particular moments in the narrative is less successful.

Director Anthony Banks moves his four actors around the stage – circumnavigating the central sofa – with skill and dexterity. Tom Chambers’ pointed features and angular movements lift his character directly from the pages of a graphic novel. If he doesn’t always appear callous enough for his proposed actions, there is one exquisitely foreboding moment as his false smile turns in slow motion into a rictus grin whilst an unseen clock ticks loudly down the seconds.

Christopher Harper, playing a double role, first appears as Captain Lesgate – suave and debonair but with a chequered history – before taking on the dogged figure of Inspector Hubbard. Played in the tradition of the all-knowing detective, Harper’s performance is compelling. With nervous energy and vocal trickery, the Inspector’s after-thoughts are, of course, the crux to detecting the calumny and the audience wills him on to uncover the truth.

This play is a most enjoyable light entertainment and, despite the word Murder in its title, an amiable drama with more than a few laughs and with only a little threat to the watching audience.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Matt Cawrey


Dial M for Murder

Cambridge Arts Theatre until  9th October then UK Tour continues


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Copenhagen | ★★★★ | July 2021
Absurd Person Singular | ★★★ | September 2021
Tell me on a Sunday | ★★★ | September 2021


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