A series of psychologically charged duets depict the sinister tensions in the father's relationship with both sons, as well as his paranoid possessiveness toward his glamorous and possibly ruthless wife. By the end of the first act's 40 minutes, I was just about familiar with Brandstrup's network of characters, let alone with the workings of his plot. It wasn't so much a case of whodunit as whodunwhat. Then, suddenly, a gunshot in the dark; the Patriarch sprawled across the staircase, and four figures filing in from one wing.
Alas, the second act had me lost again, although Brandstrup effectively whittles down the number of suspects to two in a scene in which the wife and butler make love on the stairs while the maid watches, horrified, from behind a tree. The murder itself is then re-enacted as it happened, was seen, imagined or falsely described - you never know which - by various characters. A dancing priest, on hand for anyone who wishes to confess, eventually becomes party to the truth or lies surrounding the murder. But by then, the secret is destined to remain with him, the culprit, and maybe others who conspired to, or witnessed, the killing. It remains an unsolved mystery (were we looking in on the dream wishes of the murderer?), albeit one conveyed with some excellent dancing. Ian Dearden's score offers a rather lukewarm accompaniment to the action, but the work is saved by Craig Givens's beautifully monolithic designs - a large, empty room with vast, shuttered windows looking on to a rocky, barren landscape; touches of Technicolor in the Forties costumes - and by the spellbinding blue glow of Tina MacHugh's lighting.
n Edinburgh Festival Theatre (0131-529 6000) 14 Mar; Oxford Playhouse (01865 798600) 19, 20 Mar, and touring to 4 May
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