Agatha Crusty and the Village Hall Murders

Date 29th April 2022
Society Pepperpot Players Amateur Drama Group
Venue Shanklin Theatre
Type of Production Farce
Director Lorna Wilson
Written By Derek Webb

Report

Author: Kay Green

This whodunnit is based around a hapless DI Twigg who has no idea how several members of a village hall have met their demise. Agatha Crusty, a crime novelist and amateur detective, arrives to find the murderer.

This was originally scheduled to be performed two years ago but for obvious reasons was a long time in rehearsal. The Pepperpot Players' productions are normally April and November, but the decision to stage it at the end of January was a good one. Well directed by Lorna Wilson who had cleverly slipped in some topical references. Lorna also gave a brief introduction and welcomed everyone. Apparently all three performances were sold out and the audience definitely got value for money. Ticket and programme sales and raffle were all strategically placed in the auditorium which created quite a welcoming ambience.

The programme was only four pages but gave all the necessary information. The players’ pictures were presented in a Cluedo style along with their character descriptions. The music, as required, was broadcast only for effect or as background, any more would have been intrusive. Any sound effects were ably supplied from the sound desk. The set (a village hall) was used throughout with just minor furniture tweaks and was both practical and functional. Very few properties were required and those that were appeared and disappeared seamlessly. The setting was contemporary so the costumes and make-up were relatively easy to make authentic.

The acting was of a good standard generally. Nick Turvey who played two parts was very good as Harry Knott but seemed to be floundering as P.C Lockett. Faye Farrin was convincing as Agatha Crusty but did seem to have trouble remembering some of her lines. Kevin Wilson was, as always, dependable despite not having much to do. Steve Watts played the part of brother and sister and was pantomime dame in both. Chris Turvey was the Detective Inspector (complete with moustache) played a la Clousseau and managed to make the character denser as the plot unfolded. She was particularly impressive with the scripted tongue twisters. She would have had to learn them parrot fashion so as not to slip up. Chrissie Blow as the hall Chairperson who had romantic designs on the vicar, can give a look that withers and brooks no arguments. Denise Farrow who didn't have to much do really came into her own when she was unmasked as the murderer. As Agatha ticked off the list of murder victims her mime actions were a joy to watch. Terry Pearson must have been a vicar in a past life as he had it off-pat. Mike Chapple had nothing to do apart from being a corpse, which he did very well. Ros White’s big scene was her death throes, which was well done but unfortunately the script called for the others to think she was acting! Jenny Manning as the nude model had some good lines and fortunately got her physical timing spot on. I enjoyed her over the top impression of being poisoned.

This production was up there with the best of their previous offerings and the capacity audience went home happy, if the applause was anything to go by. Productions on the Island all seem to be put out at half term or school holidays, so it was good to see that the Pepper Pots thought outside the box. It was good to see an entertaining show that cheered up the normal gloom of winter.

There was a repeat performance at Shanklin Theatre in April, which is a much larger venue and stage than where it was previously performed in a small village hall. The transition was well managed and was even more enjoyable and slicker than before.

The near 800 audience, over three nights really appreciated the work that had obviously gone into this production and the Director and cast are fully entitled to a pat on the back for a job very well done. For me the highlight was Chrissie Blow (Eleanor Wagstaff) centre stage rehearsing for the pantomime which had the audience lapping it up.

There was more to the programme this time, which included some pictures of rehearsals.

Chris Turvey (Inspector Twigg) seemed to have lost some of the earlier buzz and at times seemed elsewhere. The cast used the much larger stage effectively and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The Society have been asked to perform another Agatha Crusty  at Shanklin Theatre, following this successful run and hopefully there will not be too long to wait for this to come to fruition. A thought that will surely be echoed by the, mainly Island, audience.