Agatha Crusty and The Village Hall Murders

Date 17th November 2017
Society Double Act Drama Group
Venue Corfe Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director David Wellstead-Arnold & Ashley Wellstead-Arnold

Report

Author: Sylvia Coates

Double Act made a commendable stab at the murder mystery genre, with this play.  Set in a village hall, played in a village hall, with a cast of classic village characters, quirky posters and notices on the walls, and a grumpy caretaker to boot, the choice couldn’t have been more appropriate.  Fortunately, living in Corfe is not as dangerous as life in Chortelby, where there were (I think, for I may have lost count) five murders before the interval.

It was encouraging to see the influence of a new Director and Co-Director, (and perhaps Double Act were a little buoyed up by their success in the NODA Awards), so that there was a new energy and purpose in the group. There were some amusing touches, such as: the Vicar’s reading material (Fifty Sheds of Grey); the posters advertising Tipsy Toddlers; the Church notice that ‘Christmas is Cancelled’, and the Pink Panther theme for the Detective Inspector.  Use of the stage was generally good, although visibility would have been greatly improved had the seated scenes been staged on a rostrum, and in this setting, it might have been appropriate for the caretaker, cleaner and art class students to have a hand in setting up the scene changes, as they would in a real-life village hall.  Also, no matter how talented the Directors, they cannot do everything, and the actors must take responsibility for learning their own lines. 

There was some good characterisation, with the cross-dressing Oliver and Olivia Truscott-Pratt providing an interesting twist and skilful acting; Harry Knott, with his piratical voice, was an appropriately irascible caretaker; cleaner Maisie Grimm was well-drawn, as was PC Lockett; Mandy Dawson was streetwise and determined; the genteel ladies serving tea were entirely credible and died most creditably; the affable Vicar shambled about, seemingly naively unaware of the attentions of the Chairlady of the Village Hall Committee; Detective-Inspector Twigg was as irritatingly clumsy and inept as his counterpart, Clouseau; doggedly aided and abetted by her cousin, Alice Fogg, Agatha Crusty (pronounced Croosty) courageously and precisely tackled her rather prosaic speeches - not an easy task.

This is a wordy and witty play, enhanced by interesting directorial decisions. Next time, consider letting loose the melodrama, and playing with the risqué elements in the script, don’t be afraid of turning up the level of energy and of fun, to be less restrained.  A good production from a new Directorial team.