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Rebus: A Game Called Malice - our review from Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

Guest post by Deborah Russell

I haven’t visited the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch for a little while and it was nice to be there again and remind myself why local theatre is so important. It was packed to the brim with people happily spending their pounds (despite the levels of austerity we’re all feeling) enjoying meeting up with friends and looking forward to some of intrigue. After all, those of us who like a bit of crime fiction are familiar with the taciturn Rebus and his creator Ian Rankin.

I’m mindful that it’s easy to give the plot away when writing about crime stories, so I’ll keep my comments brief on this score and try to deal with some of the characters. Our play lets us into a world of the wealthy, it unlocks some of the secrets to that wealth and in many ways shows us their unhappiness. “Oh, that old chestnut” I hear you say, “money doesn’t always make you happy”. Well, yes in part I think the story was telling us that, but it perhaps had a more important message about not judging a book by its cover.

The cast of Rebus: A Game Called Malice seated around a dining table.  Photo credit Mark Sepple
The cast of Rebus: A Game Called Malice. Photo credit Mark Sepple

Once seated we see the stage set in a grand living room with ornate furniture and paintings on the wall. The cast had just finished a lavish meal produced by a hired caterer (we never actually get to see the chef) and they’re helping themselves to the wine and whisky on offer. Harriet and Paul Godwin have invited them over for this sumptuous repast, our main man Rebus is the plus one of his ‘ex’ Stephanie and Jack is there with his much younger ‘girlfriend’ Candida – a social influencer.

That Paul and Harriet’s marriage has some issues quickly becomes obvious and that Jack is a wheeler dealer businessman with few scruples puts us in familiar territory. What I didn’t expect was that I would discover the only honest person in the room, apart from ex-detective Rebus, would be Candida. She was the glamorous one, overdressed, in an under-dressed kind of way, leading a glamorous life supported in part by Jack but only because of the connections she made through him. The thing I liked about her, was that she was completely upfront about her life and how she lived it. Everything was an open book and unlike everyone else in the room, there were no secrets to hide. What’s more, as our story unfolds it was to Candida that Rebus turned. Her and her trusted phone, gathering info. In fairness she also had some of the good lines.

L-R Forbes Masson & Emma Noakes wearing a red short dress. Photo credit Mark Sepple.
L-R Forbes Masson & Emma Noakes. Photo credit Mark Sepple.

Now, as previously stated I won’t give you the plot, but I’m sure you can gather that there was a death, but there was also art fraud, secret liaisons, aspersions about the past, and an awful lot of lies.

The play itself is short, 7.30pm start, 9pm finish with a break, but what it lacks in length of production it certainly provides fully in terms of intensity. If like myself you’re very familiar with the TV Rebus and John Stott’s portrayal of a rather gruff, unkempt, sometimes objectionable detective, then John Michie’s softer approach may lack a certain robustness. Although possibly he just wasn’t as brusque. Certainly, his performance appeared effortless as he took control of the stage as our crime story plays out and the body (told you there was a death) is discovered. Michie’s performance along with that of Emma Noakes playing Candida definitely stood out for me.

Well done Queen’s – you did it again! Long live local theatre.

The cast:

John Michie – John Rebus

Rebecca Charles – Harriet Godwin

Forbes Masson – Paul Godwin

Billy Hartman – Jack Fleming

Emily Joyce – Stephanie Jeffries

Emma Noakes – Candida Jones

When: Now until 25th February 2023

Where: Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Billet Lane, RM11 1QT

Tickets: or


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