Murdered To Death

Date 21st February 2020
Society Walberton Players
Venue Walberton Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Sarah Tripp

Report

Author: Philip Harrison

“The thick plottens again” according to Inspector Pratt. This statement is very true, all the more ironic since it is possibly the only true thing that he says in the entire production…

The first death in the wonderful comedy is any sense of respect for Agatha Christie. We are in nineteen thirty something in a non-descript country house and the usual collection of characters are assembled. The thick plottens and the game of who will live, who will die and who will get shot in the foot (twice) is well and truly underway.

Walberton players have found a gem in this comedy and attacked its production with great gusto. From entering the small village hall the audience is presented with a wonderful box set built onto their thrust stage allowing for maximum performance space in a smallish building. This thrust stage allows the audience in and offers excellent visibility for the magnificent acting ability on show here.

Mildred (Emily Dadson) and her niece, Dorothy (Justine Potter) beautifully begin the production in very 1930’s drama style and allow the host of visitors that soon arrive to play the more eccentric roles around them with relish. Playing their parts more or less straight allows Colonel Craddock (Jim Nicholas), his wife Margaret (Jeanette Fido), Miss Hartley-Trumpington (Lizzie Gibson) and Pierre Marceau (Peter Allday) as weekend guests to offer more ham then exists on the dinner menu. All four of the guests are respectively allowed to shout like a Sergeant Major, moan like a fish wife, act posher than Jacob Rees Mogg and throw a French accent that should have been outlawed when Allo Allo left our television screens twenty years ago. Stereotypes all wonderfully played with deliciousness and delight. Bunting, the obligatory butler (Chris Harris), surprisingly manages to keep a straight face through this, not least when drunk or carrying an axe round like a lost cast member of the Adams Family. Just when the stereotypes cannot get worse in comes Ms Joan Maple, amateur sleuth, discoverer of bodies and all round know-it-all: a lovely calm and even performance by Helen Chewter – Ms Christie’s close namesake would be proud.

Inevitably murder ensues and Constable Thompkins (Chris Chewter) and Inspector Pratt (Jason Evans) arrive to solve the murder. Chris Chewter plays the traditional policeman very well and again, wonderfully straight, allowing Jason Evans to shine. For Jason Evans is very much the star and standout performer of this show. As a bumbling idiot virtually every line he utters has to be done for comedy – He never manages to get a name right, fact right and uses every known malapropism in the book (and several that need to be added). This is a significant feat of script learning as well as delivery which, on this performance was absolutely word perfect.

By the interval, a second member of the ensemble has been shot and during the interval the audience are invited to play along and guess the murderer(s). Act 2 follows with more chaos, more badly pronounced names, more ham and even more bodies. I shall not tell you if the butler did it as it hardly matters in the end. Can you guess who got shot twice?

Walberton players are a true ensemble company that have produced two hours of wonderful entertainment. Superb period costumes, lights, sound effects, fake Picasso’s, fake moustaches and more than a few stiff glasses of sherry are all combined in the service of a great cast having great fun.

Credit must also be paid to the director who has avoided the problems that box set period dramas often have. The action is animated with plenty of movement around the stage keeping the play alive and the action brisk.

Perhaps we can sum this up with “Miss Hardly – Trumping-at-all” in an accent worthy of Eton – “Jolly Hockey Sticks all round” – this reviewer and his mother enjoyed their evening very much.