A thriller with a sense of fun

Busybody

Wolverhampton Grand

****

IF Busybody is setting the standard then the Grand’s four week season of Ian Dickens’ productions is a veritable treat.

This Jack Popplewell play from 1964 is not a bad thriller in its own right opening with a body in one office which then mysteriously moves to another then, for an encore, disappears completely.

All this before the very eyes of the flustered company executive cleaner, Mrs Piper.

When the said corpse mysteriously then reappears alive and well the police are less than enthusiastic in their praise for the public spiritedness of Mrs Piper until another body is found and then a third and she is the only one who seems able to join all the dots.

But that is only half the story of a thriller that is also a very funny comedy with Mrs Piper an interfering busybody who knows everyone secrets and fills in any gaps in her knowledge with intuition.

Her 999 call brings Detective Superintendent Baxter from his sick bed. He used to live in the same street as Mrs Piper, Lily to you dear, and as plain old Harry once went out with her. Memories he would rather forget.

The interplay between the two is priceless. Lily sticking her nose in with a view on every twist and turn and at times taking over the investigation while poor old Harry is trying desperately to keep his dignity and emphasise his superior station in life from the days when he had known Mrs Piper.

TIMING SPOT ON

Érin Geraghty is magnificent as the busybody cleaner. Her timing is spot on as she delivers every laugh in the script perfectly in a matter of fact, natural way. No fuss, no jokes, no slapstick - just a clever script and immaculate timing.

Don’t meet her on a full moon though. You can’t be too careful. She is apparently the seventh child of a seventh child and was born on a Midsummers Day. On Terry Pratchett’s Discworld she would be wizard or a witch or something.

Paul Lavers as the harassed chief super having to conduct an investigation with a reminder of a past he would rather forget bending his ear is the perfect foil.

There is nothing sinister about his past it is just . . . Mrs Piper.

Around them we have Martin Stanbridge as the dead man who isn’t Richard Marshall, head of the firm of developers, Jez Edwards as DC Goddard, lusting after secretary Vicki Reynolds (Gemma Bissix). There is Marion Selby, the secretary secretly in love with her boss Mr Marshall, Claire Marshall (Tracy Shaw) the boss’s wife who has a rather loose concept of faithful the finally Robert Westerby (Paul David-Gough) the firm’s accountant who has been accused of being Claire’s lover.

Then there are two bodies and a caretaker who has been sacked and is about to lose his flat. Plenty of suspects to go at and enough clues to solve a dozen crimes and keep the audience guessing until, in the tradition of all good thrillers, the real killer is revealed in the final scene – outwitted by a cleaner.

 Busybody runs to July 2, Death by Fatal Murder July 5 to July 9, Who Killed Agatha Christie? July 12 to July 16 and The Woman in White July 19 to July 23. Season tickets are available to see all four productions £48.

Roger Clarke

And making a clean breast of it . . .

****

IT'S a fair cop! Ian Dickens Productions' summer play season got off to a great start with this sparkling comedy thriller which proved a thoroughly arresting experience for the first night audience.

Make 'em smile is a good policy for the theatre, and Jack Popplewell's amusing story of how a meddlesome office cleaning woman has detectives tearing their hair in frustration certainly achieves that object.

Erin Geraghty, whose career began as a child dancer in a Julie Andrews film, gives a wonderful performance as Mrs Piper who calls the police after spotting a body in the building, then creates a bit of mayhem with her observations and interruptions after the victim disappears.

It doesn't help hard-pressed Detective Superintendent Baxter that he is a former boyfriend of Mrs P and she is keen to remind him of past indiscretions while he is on the case. Paul Lavers delivers just the right balance of frustration and anger with the constant interference before getting his man... with the help of his tormentor.

An outstanding start by the excellent cast of eight. Busybody runs to Saturday night 02.07.11 and will be followed by Death by Fatal Murder (July 5-9).

Paul Marston 

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