Never such undevoted sisters

Shirley Anne Field as Leonora Fiske and Érin Geraghty as her housekeeper Ellen Creed

Shirley Anne Field as Leonora Fiske and Érin Geraghty as her housekeeper Ellen Creed

Ladies in retirement

Wolverhampton Grand

****

AS A country house murder mystery Ladies in Retirement seems to have just about been able to stand the test of time. Being first created as play by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham and then made into a film by Charles Vidor in 1940.

One can imagine if the play was written today it might be twenty minutes shorter which would help and some of the casual references to the Catholic Church, the depiction of two slightly challenged sisters, not to mention the casual acceptance of murder, the harbouring of criminals and fraud may have to be tempered in the light of political correctness.

So, now retired musical actress Leonora Fiske (Shirley Anne Field ), after a successful career, owns a house on the river close to London. She is attended to by the young Lucy (Melissa Clements) with Ellen Creed (Érin Geraghty ) her housekeeper whom she also considers to be a companion and friend.

Ellen’s family consist of her nephew Albert Feather (Christopher Hogben) a likeable cockney rogue who ironically happens to be a banker and an embezzler and her two impoverished sisters, Louisa and Emily.(Sylvia Carson & Karen Ford ) respectively. One day, unbeknown to Ellen, Albert calls on Leonora in search of a loan only to witness the hiding place of her cash box in the wall. Then Ellen invites her sisters to stay but after four months of their childish antics Leonora demands that they leave. Not wanting them to be upset by all of this upheaval Ellen’s solution is to dispense with her benefactor and friend Leonora.

The second act consists mainly of Albert and Lucy exploring the possibilities of the absent missing Leonora with an eye on to their own financial gain and future security.

Overall, Ian dickens has collected an excellent cast who all work hard to bring this often creaky thriller to life.

The best and most fluent exchanges were between Albert and Ellen as Albert becomes suspicious of his Aunt’s evil doings and the blackmailing power shift between them. Also the frisky relationship of Albert and Lucy goes a long way to inject some youth and energy into the stiff collared atmosphere.

The play however over does the antics of the dotty sisters and after a while they become just plain annoying as we wait for the plot to unravel. Although the ending is something of an anti-climax Ladies in Retirements remains an entertaining parlour murder mystery. To 07-06-14

Jeff Grant

03-06-14

 

Retirement most permanent

***

THERE are times in the first act of this Victorian melodrama when two of the characters are so batty the audience start to get a little irritated.

And they are not alone! Retired actress Leonora Fiske, played by Shirley Anne Field, decides she has had enough of her two unwanted lady guests, who have outstayed their welcome, but her plan to see them off leads to a surprise murder.

That’s when the play, by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham, grabs the attention even though everyone knows who dunnit and the actual deed seems to be carried out in slow motion.

The cast of six women and one man are excellent in the story which is set in the 1880s, based on a famous murder committed in a remote country house.

Leonora lives in a large house on marshes of the Thames estuary, cared for by housekeeper Ellen Creed whose simple-minded sisters Emily and Louisa decide they want to make a short visit permanent, triggering the eventual tragedy.

Erin Geraghty (Angels) is totally convincing as Ellen, desperate to find a solution to the problem, and there are excellent performances from Sylvia Carson (Louisa) and Karen Ford (Emily).

There is humour in the play, too, with Christopher Hogben playing the on-the-run nephew of the three sisters, taking a shine to the maid, Lucy, played by Melissa Clements, while realising something is amiss in the marshes.

The first of director Ian Dickens’ three-play season, it runs to Saturday night 07-06-14

Paul Marston 

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