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In conversation with Alexandra Wood on The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

Award winning playwright Alexandra Wood discusses her upcoming adaptation of The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher at The Watermill Theatre.

What drew you to want to adapt The Suspicions of Mr Whicher,  are you a big crime fan? 

I wouldn’t say I am, particularly. That said, writing any kind of play is always a process of laying clues for an audience, of withholding information and letting them have it at the moment it’ll have maximum impact. All plays are mysteries as you sit down to watch them, the audience is always playing a detective: discovering, piecing things together, hypothesising and revising as the play goes on.

What drew me to the material was the thing we can’t ever really know: why did the murderer commit such a terrible act, especially against a young child? And I had even more questions about what happened after. It’s more fun, for me anyway, to write about something you can never really know the answer to.

Can you tell us about your approach to adapting the story for the stage? 

Throughout the writing process the play has morphed from being a genre piece (the country house murder mystery) to a memory play. I discovered there wasn’t enough in the story to maintain the suspense of who might have been responsible for the murder. What there was plenty of, however, was questions! I had more than enough questions about the central characters and their relationship with the events, and each other, and the long-term fallout of that time, to drive a piece of drama.

What do you think the play has to say to today’s audiences?

One of the central questions the play explores, for me, is our desire for certainty. Mr Whicher is in pursuit of an absolute answer and the comfort that can bring. He has been plagued by not having that for the Road Hill House case. At this point in time it feels as if you’re required to be certain about things, to have a side you are on and a position you must take, which often excludes the possibility for nuance. I’m interested in exploring the place of uncertainty.

What can the audience expect from the play? 

A good night out, I hope. The play offers audiences plenty to speculate about, theorise and debate with each other in the bar afterwards, like any good mystery should.