Playing for laughs

Murder in Play

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

*** 

HOW ironic that Ian Dickens' popular Summer Play Season should open with one of those plays within a play that can confuse and amuse in equal measure.

Certainly many people in the audience were puzzled when David Callister sprang from the auditorium onto the stage and began roaring orders to actors, until the penny dropped.

He was playing Boris Smolensky, the womanising director of a murder mystery, married to one of his cast but with more than a professional interest in some of the attractive actresses under his control.

But more confusion arose when the tall and rugged Callister fell headlong off the stage on his way back into the stalls, quickly regaining his feet and covering the incident with a slick adlib about the step. Was it a genuine tumble, the customers wondered? It was, but happily he was unhurt and able to continue.

Eventually Smolensky's wife, Renee (Alison Mead), playing Lady Cholmondley, is poisoned, but the fun continues with Richard Tate a real hoot as an ageing actor, Harrison Bracewell who switches from a foreign wheeler dealer to a Ronnie Corbett lookalike in bottle glasses, a trilby and trenchcoat.

There is an excellent performance, too, from veteran actress Katy Manning, still glamorous in the role of Christa D'amato, while EastEnders' Dean Gaffney has his moments as shell-shocked war hero Major Rodney Pirbright, although at times its difficult to catch all he says.

Murder in Play, by Simon Brett, runs to 29,06.13, and will be followed next week by the comedy, Steaming. 

Paul Marston 

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