Hello... Is there any body there?
This play is an interesting one, which breaks the boundaries between the players and the audience, which of course is the true essence of panto but I’m not sure really works in a play. Now to the plot – It’s the usual murder mystery scenario which seems to parody the style of Murdered to Death and similar such productions. There’s a murder at a country house, a bungling Detective Inspector from the local constabulary turns up to investigate with the usual side kick Detective Constable & a WPC. In the end it falls to Miss Marbles to solve the mystery!
There were some technical issues on the night I attended (opening night) which resulted in sound effects being played as the audience sat waiting for the performance and a late start, but all problems were eventually resolved and the curtains opened.
Now, it’s unusual to find that the main part in any production falls to the prompt, but I’m afraid to say that this was certainly the case in this production. Within a couple of minutes of the curtains opening it seemed that other line required a nudge from the prompt. This caused the pace to slow and most of the humour and plot to suffer. Things picked up a little in Act 2 but there were still far too many prompts required. When it’s just the odd prompt, the cast can get around this by acting or ad-libbing, but as there were so many, at times the stage fell silent and everybody was looking at the prompt for the cue. I can forgive many things, but not knowing half your lines isn’t one of them.
Robin & Claire Wolfendale played the aristocratic Malcolm & Amelia Simpson-Squire. Both had good characterisation and accents and played their parts well. David Iveson as Freddy Lyons was uninspiring; I really never saw any development of a character for this part. Cliff Barber as Smalls the butler created an interesting character, with some humorous deadpan delivery. Michelle Caton worked hard as Mable the housekeeper. Claire Marsden & Linda Gregson both played well as Inspector Sides and WPC Nunnall. The enigmatic Miss Marbles was played by Lois Fitzpatick. The star of this piece was undoubtedly Matthew
Nattrass, who doubled up as Victor T’im, the unfortunate victim, and Detective Constable Fickey. Not a single slip up on lines and nice characterisation as the hapless detective, I was most impressed with this young man’s performance, well done Matthew.
The set looked good and the lighting was just right. I know this was opening night, but this production just didn’t live up to the usual high standard of this society, which is a pity as if it had have flowed better I’m certain this would have been a very funny play.
Author: Pete Astbury