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Susie Blake relishes playing ‘out there’ character in Murder in the Dark





Murder in the Dark is a new play described as a ‘spine-chilling ghost story, turned psychological thriller’.

Appearing in it is Susie Blake, a highly experienced actress with numerous stage and television credits to her name.

Murder in the Dark – Tom Chambers (Danny) and Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman). Picture: Pamela Raith
Murder in the Dark – Tom Chambers (Danny) and Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman). Picture: Pamela Raith

Written by Torben Betts, directed by Philip Franks and produced by Original Theatre, the team behind the hit production of The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie (in which Susie also appeared), the production also stars Tom Chambers, known for, among other things, Holby City and Casualty. He was also the winner of the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing.

“We did the show for 10 weeks before Christmas, and then we had a two-month break,” explains Susie, speaking to the Cambridge Independent from Derby, the first stop on its UK tour (it was in Salford last week, Southend this week and will be in Cambridge next week).

“And there’s not a seat to be had – so it’s the best you can hope for, isn’t it really, when people want to come and see it. That’s the best thing.”

Murder in the Dark – Rebecca Charles, Laura White, Owen Oakeshott, Susie Blake, Jonny Green and Tom Chambers. Picture: Pamela Raith
Murder in the Dark – Rebecca Charles, Laura White, Owen Oakeshott, Susie Blake, Jonny Green and Tom Chambers. Picture: Pamela Raith

Susie, whose TV credits include Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV, One Foot in the Grave, The Darling Buds of May, Not Going Out and Mrs Brown’s Boys, continues: “It’s a new play, by Torben Betts, and it’s a horror, comedy – it’s not quite a black comedy because it’s not ‘cute’ in any way...

“It’s a good storyline; you’ve got a family who are stranded in a snowy, North Yorkshire district, and they are rescued by a farmer – that’s me – and then things begin to unfold in the farmhouse, it all goes horribly wrong for them.

“There’s a big family dynamic, so there’s the father, the son, the boyfriend of the wife who’s no longer with them – there’s all of that going on – and the girlfriend and the pop star and that sort of thing... So there’s quite a good diversity of characters.”

Murder in the Dark – Tom Chambers (Danny) and Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman). Picture: Pamela Raith
Murder in the Dark – Tom Chambers (Danny) and Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman). Picture: Pamela Raith

Susie plays ‘Mrs Bateman’ in the play. “It’s very different, the responses the audiences have had to her,” she observes, “because she’s strange – there’s no doubt about it.

“And you’re not quite sure if she’s strange in a good way or strange in an evil way, and the director, Philip Franks, he says ‘I don’t mind if the audience disagree’ – so he has left it open to me, as the play progresses, to hint at whether or not you should be worried about her or feel comforted by her!

“She’s a very peculiar woman altogether, on her pig farm, and she’s 73 – she’s my age.

“She invites them to stay the night, because they’re snowed in, and that’s when things begin to go rather horribly wrong, for the Tom Chambers character certainly.”

Murder in the Dark – Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman). Picture: Pamela Raith
Murder in the Dark – Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman). Picture: Pamela Raith

So an interesting character to play! “Fantastic,” enthuses Susie, who first performed at the Cambridge Arts Theatre in around 1973, in a ‘rock pantomime’ called King Rat, “and he [Philip Franks] has given me carte blanche.

“He’s a wonderful director about making you brave, and also I’ve learned over the years, working with wonderful people, not to interfere with the play but to try and absolutely be true to the story that Torben created, but then to just push it slightly out of kilter…

“It’s a lovely opportunity to just be a bit braver – so she is really quite ‘out there’, she’s quite strange.”

Susie admits that she enjoys performing on stage as much as she ever has. “I think that there isn’t anything better,” she states.

“We had a gathering of LAMDA [The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art] alumni, my drama school, about a year ago, and it was sort of 55 years since we were all at drama school!

“And one of the people there said ‘Susie, I think if I cut you open, theatre would be written through you’ – and I think I’m never happier than when I get back to work in the theatre.

“I had two months off at Christmas; I went to New Zealand, I went to Australia, and it was wonderful, absolutely fantastic seeing my sister, seeing family, but when I got back I was sitting there just waiting for day one of rehearsals, to get back into rehearsals again.

“It’s just the best occupation a human being can possibly have, I think.”

See Susie on stage in Murder in the Dark from next Tuesday (6 February). The play runs until Saturday (10 February) and starts each day at 7.30pm.

Murder in the Dark – Tom Chambers (Danny) and Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman). Picture: Pamela Raith
Murder in the Dark – Tom Chambers (Danny) and Susie Blake (Mrs Bateman). Picture: Pamela Raith

There will also be two matinée performances, at 2.30pm, on the Thursday and the Saturday.

Tickets, priced £20-£40, are available from cambridgeartstheatre.com. For more on Original Theatre, go to originaltheatre.com.



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