Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Local Murder (The Maroon Cortina) by Peter Whalley

Close on thirty years ago, a friend of mine and I went to see a play at the Liverpool Playhouse, and the occasion has stuck in  my mind ever since. One of the reasons, I'm sorry to admit, is that I've hardly ever been back to the Playhouse since then. Not the Playhouse's fault -it's just that when one is busy working and writing, something has to give, and in my case one of those things has been theatre-and concert- going. At least in the past twelve months I've managed to see three plays, which may not seem much, but is an improvement on previous years.

Anyway, the play we went to see was called The Maroon Cortina. It was a modern thriller (at that time) and it was written by Peter Whalley. I've never met him, but he's best known nowadays for having written a good many episodes of Coronation Street. But in those days, he combined play writing with crime novels, and I recall reading and enjoying one of his books at around the same time that I went to see the play.

Because I really enjoyed The Maroon Cortina, I thought I'd research it. Apparently, the name of the play was changed to Local Murder - which I find rather less evocative, though I'd have to concede that the maroon Cortina did not have a massive role in the story. I finally tracked down a copy of the script, and I've just read it - rolling back the years, in a strange kind of way.

To be honest, the play - realistic in style, and concerning the murder of a young woman - strikes me as very much of its time. What was topical and highly engaging then is not quite so gripping now. And of course, reading a play is a very different experience from watching it - though I've always enjoyed reading plays, I must add. I found this one competently written, and worth reading, but it wasn't quite as excellent as memory suggested. An example of a play that works better, as intended, on the stage than on the page. There's no doubt that Peter Whalley is an accomplished writer, and I hope he returns to crime novels one of these days.

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