Arsenic and Old Lace

Date 16th November 2019
Society Double Act Drama Group
Venue Corfe Castle Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Christine Kemp


Author: Sylva Coates

Double Act made efficient use of the talent at their disposal in this entertaining production, in which everyone was determined to give their best in terms of character and storytelling: the script suited them and they played to their strengths, without the Brooklyn accent.

With so much madness onstage, it is remarkable that the script makes sense and is so enjoyable, but Abby in particular rose to the challenge of mastering the speeches and delivering them with aplomb, her matter-of-fact tone always belying the insanity beneath the respectability of her existence; Martha was convincingly cool and genteel as her sisterly sidekick, as they murdered their way through the plot.  Rev. Dr. Harper, with his mellifluous speaking voice, knew how to deliver a line, had good timing and an air of good old-fashioned values.  Patricia played it for real, so that her performance was truthful whether she was selling cookies, autograph-hunting, or escaping in fear of her life.  Elaine brought a glamorous, fresh and youthful energy to the characters onstage; delighting the Brewster sisters and somewhat discomfiting Mortimer; she clearly understood plot and character and looked the part.  Mortimer kept up the pace and the energy, delivering his lines with impact and purpose.  Jonathan was truly horrible, with his ghastly make-up and menacing demeanour.  Teddy was watchful, quiet, until his initial bellowing of ‘Charge’ introduced his less conventional side; this was a strong interpretation of the character, played with truth and commitment throughout, and with an impressive use of the trumpet.  Dr Einstein was ineffectual and bumbled his way around the stage, achieving an effective sleight-of-hand to conceal the surgical instruments.  Mr Witherspoon demonstrated an admirable versatility in his change of character (previously Rev. Dr. Harper).  The Police Officers did a good job in supporting the plot; would-be author ‘Shakespeare’ O’Hara’s forceful enthusiasm was amusing, and the vigorous beating of Jonathan with truncheons was very much enjoyed by the audience.

The sturdy set created a cosy old-world atmosphere, with its pedestal table, silver tea-service and crystal glassware; toy soldiers and a ship in Teddy’s toy box looked authentic.  Costumes were appropriate for the characters and Elaine’s outfits reinforced the difference between the out-dated and elderly Brewsters and their youthful, fresh and modern neighbour.  Interesting mood changes were created with lighting, including the ominous light which accompanied The Dead as they rose from the cellar to take their curtain call - an ingenious conclusion to an enjoyable production.