Death in High Heels

Date 21st April 2016
Society Cobham Players
Venue Cobham Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Beth Barrett
Musical Director N/A
Choreographer N/A

Report

Author: Jon Fox

Set in 1930, "Christophe et Cie," a small couture house in Regent Street, this fascinating and comedic whodunnit features a cast of ten playing a host of diverse characters.   The plot revolves around who will be chosen by owner Frank Bevan to become the general manager of the new branch in Deauville.   

The staff's rivalry, bitchiness, gossip and lies were extremely well played by a very talented cast, described by Director Beth Barrett in her programme notes as "stellar".    Naturally she did not include herself in this comment, so let me now do so instead!    The play had pace, pathos, laugh out loud moments and skilfully built up the intrigue and tension throughout the first act.

The second act was largely given over to the "whodunnit" investigation and as the various intrigues were played out we learned so much more about the suspects being questioned.    When the elegant designer Caroline Doon, played with complete authority by the charismatic Victoria Franklin was poisoned as the act one curtain falls, I felt the play had reached its zenith.

Performances in order of appearance were as follows:-

Karen Budd as Irene Best played this rather staid and conservative character with nuanced skill. This was probably the most unrewarding role to bring to life and Karen's wealth of acting experience made her the ideal fit.

Niall Clutton played owner Frank Bevan, a ladies' man, shallow and chauvinistic. One did not warm to Frank, but one certainly did to the authenticity of Niall's portrayal.

Kim Groom as Rose Macinerny brought a vital contrast as the downtrodden skivvy / dogsbody.   As the seemingly harmless character reveals her secret, so the role becomes more vital. A top class performance.

Samantha Myers had the highly rewarding role of Miss Zelda Gregory and she played this tempestuous lady for all she was worth. Highly enjoyable!

Michael Dawes played office manager Dorian (Dora) Pouvier. Mincing, lonely, bullied, sad and angry, there was far too much depth in this fascinating character to be merely a gay stereotype.   A peach of a part in the right hands and a lovely juicy peach of a performance from Michael.

Michelle Hosking as Rachel Gay, was the relative newcomer to the fashion house, somewhat timid and never quite in control.   Michelle gave this most insecure character much depth with a most skilled performance. One warmed to the character.

Nathalie Hulbert was Aileen Wheeler, source of much of the visual comedy, her preening and pouting being so obvious to all, as intended. Nathalie used her natural advantages to the fullest.   Most enjoyable!

Victoria Franklin - Miss Caroline Doon - the other half in the bitchy rows with Zelda. She meets her unfortunate end at the act one curtain fall. It is doubly unfortunate when such a charismatic and powerful actress lasts only halfway through he play. Especially for the audience!

Graham Budd as Inspector Charlesworth was a highly professional police officer, with total authority, firm but still human. He was on stage for virtually the whole second act and his acting was assured, with the naturally world weariness expected of this role. Extremely well cast!

Melanie Cook played his Sergeant, Lillian Wyler, suspicious of all, cynical and not at all likeable or "cuddly". Melanie provided the essential foil to the Inspector in outlook and attitude.   Another top performance.

This was indeed a "stellar" cast and each actor / actress brought their particular character to life with well observed and nuanced skill. It was among the more enjoyable whodunnits I have seen for some time.

The set was kept sensibly minimal, though it was perfectly realistic for the period, as were the clothes and hair styles under the attentive care of wardrobe mistress Mary Taylor.

Director Beth Barrett's father, Richard Barrett, was the show's producer and  both must take much credit for this play and fascinating production. The production was a tribute to the late and enormously talented actor and director Alan Wiseman. I had the great pleasure of sharing his company on numerous occasions and he was warm, funny and fascinating in his great theatrical knowledge. A great theatre man who has left a huge hole. I am certain that Alan, watching from above, would feel a warm glow as did the appreciative audience.

I always look forward to visiting this company's productions, their team spirit and warmth always provides a special evening and this was certainly no exception.