Killing Jessica

Previewed 12 November 1986, Opened 19 November 1986, Closed 31 January 1987 at the Savoy Theatre in London

Richard Levinson and William Link's thriller Killing Jessica in London starring Patrick Macnee - adapted by David Rogers from the movie Rehearsal for Murder

Playwright Alex Dennison is left heartbroken when his fiancee and leading lady Monica Welles is found dead from an apparent suicide after the opening night of her Broadway stage debut. On the first anniversary of her death, Alex assembles the same cast and crew in the same theatre, for a reading of his new play. But as the reading begins, it becomes clear that Alex believes that Monica was murdered and he intends to uncover her killer...

Thriller adapted for the stage by David Rogers from the Richard Levinson and William Link 1982 TV movie Rehearsal for Murder which starred Robert Preston and Lynn Redgrave.

The cast featured Patrick Macnee as 'Alex Dennison', Liz Robertson as 'Erika Welles', David Langton as 'David Mathews', and Jennie Linden as 'Bella Lamb', with Angela Douglas as 'Sally Bean', Nicola Bryant as 'Karen Daniels', Mark Caven as 'Lloyd Andrews', David Gilliam as 'Man in Auditorium', Ian Tyler as 'Leo Gibbs', Paul Aspland as 'Police Lieutenant', Morgan Deare as 'Ernie', John Channell Mills as 'Mr Santoro', Suzanne Sinclair as 'Loretta', and Else Tebith as 'Police Officer'.

Directed by Bryan Forbes, with designs by Tim Goodchild, and lighting by Jenny Cane.

"Set on the stage of a Broadway theatre, Killing Jessica consists of a performance arranged by a playwright to entrap the murderer of his actress fiancee. By the end of the evening, it emerges that we have been witnessing a play within a play within a play. If you add the Savoy audience (London's closest approximation to the Broadway clientele) that supplies yet another theatrical dimension. The piece is most carefully addressed to the taste of 44th Street theatre buffs: people with a smattering of backstage information, who know the names of leading producers and the ghastly ritual of first-night reviews, and who judge productions on the Variety criterion of whether they are repaying their investment or not. All this is reflected by Mr Forbe's company, who give a faithful performance of how theatre people are supposed to behave... It is a well-constructed piece: not particularly thrilling, but it holds the attention. Its quality is exactly in key with the style of Patrick Macnee who brings his Americanized view of the English gentleman - radiating mischievous authority from inside a well-cut blazer - to bear on the playwright sleuth. Otherwise, there are some smoothly elaborate scenic transitions, and reliable support performances from Liz Robertson, Jennie Linden, and David Langton." The Times

Based on an American TV thriller drama by Richard Levinson and William Link, adapted by David Rogers, this is not merely a whodunit or even a whodunit but a how-can-we-lure-the-killer-back-and-get-him-to-admit-that-he-dunnit. Patrick Macnee, with a doom-laden line in exposition, takes us back to a year ago. Macnee's Alex Dennison is a playwright whose fiancée and leading lady supposedly killed herself in an understandable fit of depression (if Alex's dialogue is anything to go by) after his last play opened on Broadway to bad notices. Now Dennison is back stalking the very same theatre with a new script by which he aims to get to the truth, Killing Jessica. Did Jessica spurn an ageing actor's clumsy sexual-advance to her cost; did she perish for the sake of the producer's insurance dough; was her pre-performance herb tea spiked by a sibling rival; or did she simply choke on her lines? There are in truth more twists which professional etiquette, if not public duty, prevent me from revealing. But, though one is ingenious, they come too late. Unlike the best of Anthony Shaffer and Ira Levin, the dialogue, though stiff with in-jokes and theatrical bitchery, is about as crisp as a lettuce in a monsoon; and though Jenny Linden as a truculent lady producer and Lloyd Andrews as the on-stage director come dangerously close to giving good performances, the rest of the cast prefer to keep a wisely cautious distance from most of the direly un-gripping proceedings. I've seen more life in an urn." The Guardian

Killing Jessica in London at the Savoy Theatre previewed from 12 November 1986, opened on 19 November 1986 and closed on 31 January 1987