Death By Design

Date 30th November 2019
Society Cast and Crew Theatre Workshop
Venue War Memorial Hall, Canvey Island
Type of Production Play
Director Sallie Castile and Matthew Willis

Report

Author: Jess Pether

Death by Design is described as a cross between Noel Coward and Agatha Christie, so I couldn’t wait to see what mysteries would unravel before my eyes and how many twists and turns would develop in the plot. Act 1 introduced all our characters and built up the story and act 2 focussed on who shot Walter Pearce.

As with the last Cast & Crew show I reviewed, the fantastic set is the first thing that catches your eye. Designed by director Sally Catling and constructed by Steve Hull and Peter Dumenil, it was detailed, eye catching and well-made. I think a few scenes could’ve used the stage a little more but as more characters were introduced, there was a good spread and lots of movement and I think the majority of scenes were directed well.

Bradley Bailey as Jack had one of the best costumes in the show, dressed in a smart driver’s uniform all ready to drive the Bentley that was parked outside the mansion. For a man who is meant to be a womaniser and have a girl in each port, he lacked some charisma for me, but I could tell he was trying his absolute best with the part.

Maxine Neil played actress Sorel Bennett and she did really well. The airy, slightly snooty character suited her and she was particularly good in act 2 when getting excited about a murder taking place right in her living room. Her husband, Edward Bennett, was played by Steve Wilding and I thought his acting was strong. He did need to be prompted a handful of times throughout the show, which slowed the pace a little, but the long-suffering husband and wife pair were good overall.

Bridgit, the maid who turns detective in act 2, was played by Sarah Lepley, and politician Walter Pearce, was played by Perry Baker, and they both did fine jobs. Sarah was warm and had a homely air about her, but also delivered some funny lines. Perry was smarmy and annoying and although knocked out for most of the second half, had good stage presence. I would’ve preferred it if he’d had taken his hoop earring out for the part though, as it, definitely, didn’t fit with the time period!

Brennan Thompson as Eric was also good, and used his face well throughout, resulting in some chuckles as he looked at people like they were a bit mad (which they were!). I felt his character entered the story at just the right time, when some new blood was needed. Coral Baker played Alice whose part was fairly small and spent a lot of time crying, and she was good.

The standout performer for me was Zahna Hull as Victoria Van Roth. An eccentric character, she at one point performed an interpretive dance complete with various shrieks and screams, which she put her all into (and looked to be thoroughly enjoying!). Watching her get progressively drunk throughout act 2 was hilarious – it’s very easy to go OTT with this, but she had honed it to perfection. At one point she even started to lick the inside of her martini glass when there was no drink left, which was a small touch not missed by me and added that bit extra to the character. Well done to her for bringing the stage to life during her scenes.

I can’t say I fully understood the story, but this wasn’t the fault of the players. In the end, it turns out that Walter isn’t dead at all, although many of the characters were trying to make it happen. As a play, there were some interesting mysterious bits of plot but overall, I’m not sure the story was the strongest.

Cast & Crew are a lovely group of people and I was glad to be welcomed again to their show. Well done to everyone.