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Malice Aforethought

Richard Armitage in Malice Aforethought as Bill ChatfordIn April 2005, Richard Armitage appeared in ITV's murder mystery drama, Malice Aforethought.

The drama is based on Francis Iles' 1931 novel of the same name. It's set in a picturesque English village - as all the best murder mysteries are - and tells the story of the local doctor, Edmund Bickleigh (Ben Miller). Married to a relentlessly domineering older woman, Bickleigh finds solace in the arms of the ladies of the village, in particular, Ivy Ridgeway and newcomer Madeleine Cranmere. When Madeleine refuses to be his mistress, wanting marriage instead, he decides the best course of action is to poison his wife. But one murder is never enough...

Richard Armitage plays Bill Chatford, a solicitor who is Ivy's new husband. Returning from honeymoon, he realises that Ivy is Bickleigh's cast-off mistress. He becomes suspicious of the doctor's role in his wife's death and sets out to uncover his guilt.

Richard Armitage described Chatford as "a misogynistic cad". He wears a wonderfully caddish moustache in the role, and a sneer that foreshadows Guy of Gisborne's.

"I wasn't able to get hold of a copy of the book and I haven't seen the first version so I can't compare it to the original. It's a dark thriller but Ben Miller who plays Dr Bickleigh brings a real thread of black humour to the piece," he said. [1]

Although the novel and the TV adaptation are in the murder mystery genre, there's actually no mystery about who the murderer is. Iles' novel was one of the first to reveal the murderer right at the start. It begins;

"It was not until several weeks after he had decided to murder his wife that Dr. Bickleigh took any active steps in the matter." [2]

The fun is in watching Bickleigh trying to get away with the murder. And fun it is - it's an enjoyable romp, set in a world of garden parties, croquet and tennis on the lawn, sex in the summer-house, 1920s frocks and eccentric village characters. But as Richard Armitage says, there's a thread of something a little darker running through it.


[1] Express and Star, 1st April 2005
[2] "Malice Aforethought", by Francis Iles, 1931

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