Dying for a laugh

Murder In Play

Malvern Festival Theatre

***

THIS cheery murder mystery is a bit like a game of Cluedo.

It's a gentle soiree with all the usual suspects that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Or rather, that should be with double the amount of suspects as this story is a play within a play.

On one level, there is an old fashioned murder mystery being acted out on stage by a second-rate group of performers whose pitiful attempts at acting bring plenty of mirth to the show.

Then there is the murderous drama that unfolds between the actors when the vicious and sneering leading lady pops her cogs - and it won't take Poirot to realise that everyone in the cast had good reason to do the deed. 

Included in that list is the husband, his mistress, the mistress's husband and the old foes, which keeps the little grey cells busy trying to fathom out whodunit while enjoying the antics on stage.

Gemma Bixxix and Richard Tate in the play within a play

Richard Tate takes a hilarious turn as ageing drunken actor Harrison Bracewell, who constantly bumbles his lines, while former Eastenders actor Dean Gaffney shows an aptitude for comedic timing while also charming the crowd with his charisma.

Gaffney is all the more impressive when you realise that he has returned to the stage in fine form just months after a serious car crash in Derby that left him needing major surgery on his skull.

He was driving home after performing in another murder mystery, A Murder is Announced at Derby Theatre, in January, when his car careered into the central reservation.

Another former soap opera favourite - Gemma Bissix from Hollyoaks - was also starring with Gaffney in Derby and joins him in this play too.

Bissex adds plenty of spirit and glamour to the proceedings as a plucky young Miss Marple-type at the centre of this light-hearted tale.

Over two hours, it's basically all fun and games that will keep you guessing and smiling.

It may be a far cry from a chilling thriller, but Murder in Play adds a welcoming twist to the usual murder mystery formula. To 01-06-13

Alison Brinkworth 

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