Cruising to Death

Date 17th June 2017
Society Woodland Players
Venue Church of the Good Shepherd, Kingwood, Bristol
Type of Production Murder Mystery play
Director Neil Baker
Musical Director -
Choreographer -


Author: Dee Way

The play was written by one of the cast, Neil Baker, using intriguing plays on nautical terms for the names of the characters. The concept of the play as two episodes in which all the clues were given worked well. There was time in the first section to sort out who was who, and to understand a little of their personalities. There were some lovely red herrings, too. The dialogue was dynamic and clear, the situations of the guests and crew opened many options as to who could have committed the crime and why. The length of each section was nicely balanced, to allow the audience to engage with each character and to reach an opinion as to their role in the plot.

The direction of the play – and the evening - was very good. The audience was presented with a list of the ship’s company and guests who appeared in the play which provided some very helpful background to the characters involved. Over the course of the play, we felt as if we really got to know the characters well. There was good time left for discussion on of the clues and the motives of each character, while opportunity was slightly masked by some of the conjecture.

The set was beautifully created, with the stage becoming the sundeck of a cruise ship and the wake from the ship very nicely portrayed on the backcloth with rippling light. The ship deck was totally believable, with railings, life belts, portholes, chairs and covers and gangways off.  Four of five seagulls hung from the lights, and the effect of the wash from the boat was very realistic. The fish jumping in the wake of the ship were a lovely touch! Later, there was a lovely moon depicted and a night scene for a fancy dress party, complete with coloured lights and a whiter wake for the ship.

The costumes reflected the status of the characters well, with a relaxed uniform for the crew. The rich American lady was delightful in her opulence and blond wig, while Sam Onella was kitted out in dirty kitchen whites. The two young detectives looked convincing in their modern costumes and Granny Knott was dressed to suit her characterisation as a much widowed lady enjoying her regular ‘snowballs’.

However, the story and the acting were the core of this production, and the challenge to solve the mystery was fun. Of course, there were clues along the way but so many had motive and opportunity that the dénoument was a surprise.