Murder in the Dark review – Original Online ★★☆☆☆

Torben Betts uses a classic set-up for his play, Murder in the Dark, part psychological thriller, part ghost story, which has made the leap from stage to streaming following a tour last year. Following a car accident on the way home from his mother’s funeral, fading pop star Danny Sierra (Tom Chambers) and his girlfriend, Sarah (Laura White), find themselves stranded at a run-down cottage on the grounds of a house in a remote area of rural England on the night of New Year’s Eve. They’re joined by fellow passengers, Sierra’s ex-wife, Rebecca (Rebecca Charles), his son, Jake (Jonny Green) and his brother William (Owen Oakeshot).

Disconnected from the world by the cottage’s lack of WiFi or phone signal, their only company is the eccentric occupant of the main house, Mrs Bateman (Susie Blake). Forced to wait until morning to find a way of getting home, the evening’s events begin to take a dark turn with their host, growing increasingly strange, and a series of supernatural occurrences force them to confront their respective pasts.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Having set the scene so well, it is even more of a shame that Betts fails to deliver on the play’s early promise, as it spirals into the absurd. The attempt to bring dark comedy in the ghost story failing to land. Philip Franks’ production lacks tension beyond the opening twenty minutes, with Betts’ text offering little to work with. There is no fear of what may be lurking in the darkness. Worse still, in the production’s transfer from stage to screen, even the jump scares fail to shock as Franks’ bizarre decision to play these moments in slow motion removing any chance of terror. One particular jump scare (its description avoided here to avoid major spoilers) seems more likely to draw laughs than screams.

The character of Mrs Bateman is too odd to be fear-inducing, though Blake does her best. The rest of the cast find themselves equally constrained by the text with an absence of depth to the characters. What Murder in the Dark does have is an impressive set, with Simon Kenny’s stage cleverly transforming from the cottage interior to its exterior, featuring something that may terrify some more than the play’s events: an outside toilet.

Murder in the Dark is available to stream online at Original Online from 24 May 2024