‘Harmless and amusing’: The Gentle Hook at Theatre Royal

If you enjoy complicated murder mysteries and laughing for all the wrong reasons, Francis Durbridge’s ‘The Gentle Hook’, a ridiculous attempt at a classic ‘whodunit’, is certainly one to watch.


The play is set in Brad Morris’ (Adrian Lloyd-Jones) living room, a man of sixty who lives with his unhappily married daughter Stacey (Angie Smith) and his young work colleague Alan Kyle (Chris Sheridan).

When Stacy is attacked in her home and she kills the assailant, a plot of murder, mystery and intrigue ensues.

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Unhappily married daughter and her father

On a positive note, The Gentle Hook is a visually enticing production. The staging is impressive and intricate, mirroring the realist stages of late 18th and early 19th centuries, while the characters’ costumes are all wonderfully seventies.

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Karen Henson as Madge Harrison- the wonderful seventies

The dialogue, however, is not so exciting.

The play is slow to begin, impaired by the dodgy dialogue and hackneyed exposition, all delivered with distracting inelegance.

Durbridge is clearly more comfortable when it comes to scripting a murder plot than he is a domestic conversation, for, as soon as Inspector Lennox (George Telfer) arrives, the play picks up speed and the plot develops.

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Not the best domestic plot

Though this doesn’t stop it from it becoming overly complicated and hard to follow, the uninspiring (often cheesy) acting not helping matters.

Despite the clunky narrative and acting cheese however, The Gentle Hook serves as an amusing trip to the theatre and the audience, whose average age appeared to verge on 80, seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, especially when Alan appeared on stage in nothing but his boxer shorts.

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 Chris Sheridan as Alan Kyle fully clothed

In truth, by the time the curtain falls and with all the loose ends are tied up, The Gentle Hook remains a harmless, amusing romp. Perhaps not what Durbridge intended…