Four characters and a funeral

The Late Edwina Black

Wolverhampton Grand

****

WHEN the main character is dead and never seen - even her painting has been removed -   and one of the cast of four is a policeman investigating the death that does not leave many  runners in the whodunit stakes.

This is probably the best known play by William Dinner and William Morum and it is to their credit, and of course that of the cast,  that they manage to not only build the tension but keep the audience guessing until the very end and even then there is still a little twist.

The play, set in Victorian England, opens the night before the funeral of Edwina Black who seems to have been a not particularly well liked woman on a two to one vote.

Her one fan is Ellen (Katie Evans) the housekeeper, who doesn't do tea after 4.15pm, is devoted to her mistress and has a nice line in caustic put downs, no doubt borrowed from her boss, Edwina.

Leading the dissenters is Gregory Black (Nick Waring) who is hardly distraught at the death of his wife. As the village schoolmaster he was reminded regularly by Edwina that he was living very nicely thank you on her money and it appears that this was hardly a match made in heaven.

And with the casting vote comes Elizabeth Graham, Edwina's paid companion who we discover rather hated her mistress with her sarcasm and high and mighty ways.

ADDED COMPLICATION

To add to the complications it transpires Gregory and Elizabeth are a bit of an item - well a lot of an item really with plenty of opportunity in the six months or so that Edwina has been languishing upstairs on her sick bed.

Not exactly domestic bliss in the Black household and life becomes further complicated when Henry Martin (Richard Walsh) appears from Scotland Yard to suggest the death was not all it seemed and the funeral had to be delayed while a post mortem is held.

Walsh, who was Sicknote in London's Burning, plays the old fashioned Yard detective as a sort of Victorian Columbo, always arriving for a chat a with just a couple of extra things that need cleaning up.

With the death now less than natural and three suspects we watch as attitudes start to change, suspicions grow and relationships break down. All the possible killers have something to gain from the death indeed the only loser in the whole affair appears to be Edwina herself.

As with all Ian Dickens' productions - he directed this one as well - the sets are good and believable adding to what is an enjoyable and intriguing evening of old fashioned mystery drama which even manages a few laughs among the growing tension. To 17-07-10

Roger Clarke

Helping with inquiries . . .

****

YOU never see Edwina Black in this thriller by William Dinner and William Morum, but her presence is certainly felt as three people in her luxury home come under suspicion following her death.

An ailing invalid, she is thought to have died through natural causes until a Scotland Yard detective arrives on the scene the night before the funeral and reveals that a post mortem will be necessary following doubts raised by her veteran doctor.

Former London's Burning star Richard Walsh gives a skifull and at times amusing performance as old fashioned copper Inspector Henry Martin, the man charged with the task of discovering how the wealthy woman met her death.

He soon has the three possible suspects squirming, and Nick Waring is convincing in the role of the apparently grieving husband, modest schoolteacher Gregory, who is in fact having an affair with Edwina's companion, Elizabeth Graham.

Georgina Sutton sparkles as Elizabeth, particularly in lively exchanges with her lover over the poisoning theory, although that possible cause of death is perhaps the one weakness in the story.

A sound contribution, too, from Katie Evans as the housekeeper, Ellen, the third murder suspect.

Paul Marston

 

This was the second of four Ian Dickens productions in the Grand's summer rep season. Next week sees the comedy It's Never Too Late with Hi-Di Hi's Jeffrey Holland - from Walsall incidentally - and finally a spoof Agatha Christie country house whodunit, Murdered to Death with Norman Pace. 

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