Writers: Eric Elice & Roger Rees
Director: Ruth Cheetham
Reviewer: Angela Wilson
The story has it that authors Eric Elice and Roger Rees found themselves snowed in and to pass the time they decided to write a comedy thriller with a surprise twist – the result was Double Double, the current production by Leicester Drama Society at the Little Theatre.
Phillipa picks up down-and-out Duncan from the street with a very specific purpose in mind – he bears an uncanny resemblance to her recently deceased husband Richard, who would have inherited two million pounds if he had lived until next week. Can the two of them together convince the family solicitor that Richard is still alive in order to share the spoils? Can they trust one another? And is everything actually as it appears to be?
The action takes place in Phillipa’s plush apartment on London’s Embankment, and the minimal, classy décor of the set gives the impression of being the home of somebody with wealth and taste. But the masks that hang on the walls give a suggestion of deception and concealment, themes that run through the whole play.
Karen Gordon’s Phillipa is a cold, calculating Streatham girl who has gone up in the world and enjoys the material comforts that an empty marriage has brought her. Duncan, played by Clive Hawley, reveals that beneath the outward appearance of a homeless drunk there is a man of depth and sensitivity. In a Pygmalion type transformation, Duncan is coached to perfection in his “rôle” as Richard by Phillipa, but what starts off as a purely business arrangement becomes much more complicated and personal. With just two cast members it’s vital to have good chemistry to make the story convincing, and that’s what we see here. Clive Hawley’s delivery was slightly uncertain on a couple of occasions, but he gives Duncan a solid Yorkshire earthiness, and switches cleverly between this and the impersonation of sophisticated Richard. Karen Gordon’s confident performance as Phillipa shows an icy demeanour gradually breaking down to reveal long suppressed inner warmth, but also emotional conflict.
This is a very enjoyable production that moves along at a fast pace under the assured directorship of Ruth Cheetham. As you’d expect with a play described as a comedy thriller, there are more than enough convolutions in the plot to keep everybody guessing, and a good few amusing lines, even if it has no real heart in the mouth, edge of the seat scary moments. I certainly hadn’t worked out the final twist and the ending is nicely ambiguous, leaving the audience to wonder what will happen next after the curtain falls.