The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Date 16th March 2013
Society Alnwick Stage Musical Society
Venue The Playhouse, Alnwick
Type of Production Musical
Director Sally Pumford
Musical Director Peter Brown
Choreographer Peter Brown

Report

Author: Kathryn Curry

This show, based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished final work, is certainly no conventional musical, and A.S.M.S. met the challenge head on with energy and enthusiasm. Audience involvement began even before the opening with the cast out in the auditorium setting the scene for the rest of the show. When the curtain went up the obvious enjoyment of the cast was infectious and with the cajoling of the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ the audience were soon revelling in the fantasy of raucous Music Hall.

The dual roles of the cast, as actors playing both themselves and their stage characters in the ‘play within a play’, were carried off well, perhaps best exemplified, superbly, by David Penny, who slipped seamlessly between the parts of The Chairman ‘Mr William Cartwright’ and the town mayor ‘Thomas Sapsea’. The main principals were well cast, and all played their parts strongly with real insight into their characters, in particular Lynne Lambert who performed with confidence and gusto as the wanton ‘Princess Puffer’. Sarah Purvis was excellent as ‘Edwin Drood’, and her singing was outstanding. In the cameo roles, Trevor Porteous was just perfect as ‘Durdles’ and Claire Teasdale, playing her first main role in the society, was a joy to watch as ‘Helena Landless’. Singing of both principals and chorus was very competent and extremely well supported by the excellent orchestra led by the very talented and flamboyant M.D. and keyboard player Mr Peter Brown.

The devise of using an audience poll to decide on the outcome of the various threads of the plot and the fates of the players, which were left undecided by the author’s untimely demise, worked well, and increased the already considerable audience participation. The cast rose to the task of responding to the unpredictable audience with lots of hilarious improvisation, much to the delight of us all.

In the modern style, the set was minimalistic and largely effective, though from many seats, including my own, the red travellers obstructed the view of the action upstage behind them and the beautiful village scene backcloth.

All round an interesting attempt at this very challenging show, demonstrating that this well established musical society is more than capable of performing productions outside their conventional repertoire.