Stars explained: * A production of no real merit
with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not
enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real
life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A
good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely
achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a
great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major
flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic
which lifts theatre to another plane.
Murdered to Death
The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster
PETER Gordon's play takes the traditional weekend country house murder mystery and effectively spoofs the whole genre.
Instead of a super smart sleuth cleverly outwitting the killer we have the bumbling Detective Inspector Pratt. There’s more than a touch of the Clouseu and Basil Fawlty about him and the script is littered with innuendo and more malapropisms than you can keep up with or count.
Set in a country manor house in the 1930s the host Mildred, after inviting several friends for a weekend of entertainment, ends instead as the murder victim. Like any classic Agatha Christie, plot begins with the characters and their conflicts. Everyone seems innocent until a series of conversations reveals all is not quite what it seems.
Mildred the host is passionately played by Isabelle Waring. Troubled by the attitude of her ageing and sarcastic butler Bunting, played beautifully by Richard Casewell, she prepares for the guests’ arrival with her niece and companion Dorothy played by Georgina Taylor.
Fist to arrive is the doddery Colonel Craddock, brought to life by Stan Barten and his polite yet maligned wife played convincingly by Sandy Tudor. The Craddocks are long time friends but as soon as Mildred and the Colonel are alone a secret is revealed.
Next is the well named Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington and art dealer Pierre Marceau seemingly companions only by coincidence of being on the same train .Laurie Pollitt was superbly elegant as the aloof Trumpington and Joseph Harper revelled in his exaggerated French accent as Pierre.
An uninvited arrival occurs in the form of Miss Maple played by Joan Wakeman mimicking the guise of another famed amateur detective. Unfortunately her presence is something of a red herring as in the end she has not slightest idea whodunit.
Once the dastardly deed has happened the crime is investigated by the sensible Constable Tompkins played nicely by Alex Parkinson and the ridiculous Detective Pratt played intensely by Bob Graham.
Whilst the constable seems quite adequate at observing the facts of the case Pratt is sidetracked, confused and mistaken at just about every possible thing from people’s names to simple placement of the telephone receiver.
Whereby other productions have had other cast members adding to the performance chaos, director Pamela Meredith focused the comic action on the role of detective Pratt which made it something of a challenge.
It makes for the play to be slightly unbalanced in that the extremes of Detective Pratt, whilst always amusing are largely unnoticed by the entire cast who play their parts with a great deal of reality. There is little exasperation at his continual mistakes and a heightening of the general chaos would have helped the comedy.
It’s the kind of play that might seem fitting for an amateur company but bringing off this requires a balance in the performance and a great deal of comic timing. Some of the clever lines get lost, sometimes in the eagerness for the comedy but the ensemble more than make up for it and in the end delivered a highly funny and entertaining evening. To 28-01-17