Death By Fatal Murder – October 2011

5/10

By: Peter Gordon

Directed by: Ian Dickens

Company: Ian Dickens Productions

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Tuesday 18th October 2011

Not a great play, although the cast did a good job with what they were given, and the audience were remarkably appreciative. The humour was pretty basic, with plenty of sexual innuendo, grabbing of buttocks and breasts, the occasional fart joke, etc. Some if it worked quite well, and we did have a few good laughs, but most jokes signalled their arrival a fair way out and fell limply onto the stage, hardly raising a chuckle.

The set was a sitting room with an old-fashioned look; turned out it’s an old country house setting. There was a main door at the back, a door to a linking corridor on the right, sofa, chairs, table and the usual assortment of furnishings including two large pictures, one above the fireplace and the other on the right-hand wall. The time was November 1940, and the costumes were appropriate.

The opening scene had a man sitting in one of the chairs in the gloom, and when a woman arrived, she found that he was dead, made some comment about her mother, and then grabbed the poker to defend herself when she realised she’s not alone. Someone else was lurking in the corridor, and she got as far as exclaiming ‘it’s you’, or some such, before the lights went out again and we were left in the dark. The next scene started us off on the quest to discover what had happened to a missing constable, PC Atkins. Along the way we met two randy women, one fake husband, an even more fake Italian, a fake medium, and an elderly local called Miss Joan Maple, with at least one skeleton in her closet! The local police inspector was called Pratt – yes, the humour was that obvious – and kept calling people by the wrong name, as well as mangling nearly every other word. The constable who was helping him, PC Tomkins, was much smarter, and figured out the solution before his boss, but as he’d also broken the law he was likely to be in trouble too. Never mind, it all ended happily enough, although the ghost of Colonel Craddock showed his displeasure at the end.

There were references to other works during the evening; Miss Maple quoted from The Importance Of Being Earnest before the rest of the cast pointed out that was from the wrong play, and the Squadron Leader’s limp and cane were highly reminiscent of a certain Herr Flick – not too surprising since the Squadron Leader was played by Richard Gibson. I suspect David Callister is doing the near-corpse as a technique now – we’ve seen him do it a few times, and last night I found it unconvincing, even though other cast members did their best to back him up.

Overall, the cast did a decent enough job, and I particularly liked Katy Manning’s Welsh psychic. The material wasn’t up to much, but they managed to create a passable performance out of it, which is worthy of an award in itself. Not one I’ll see again, but well done to the cast.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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