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Mortimer Dramatic Society - Dead Man's Hand

29th to 30th May and 5th to 6th June 2009.

Review from Newbury Theatre.

It’s hard to review this play without it being a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know about the plot, look away now. However, the MDS press release for Dead Man’s Hand does contain quite a lot of plot information, so I’ll go as far it does...

Jennifer and Brian arrive at an Italian villa on holiday to try and patch up their marriage. Brian is a failed businessman who is hoping to strike a shady deal with Mr Konakis, the mysterious owner of the villa. As they are settling in, David and Corinne arrive; David is a corrupt local councillor who has been taking bribes from Konakis. Franco, a local, arrives too, and the murders start: first Jennifer, then Brian. When Corinne fails to appear, we realise that this is the rehearsal for a play, directed by Franco/Frank.

But then the actors start to get murdered, with the manner of their death reflecting what happens in the play.

The writing of Dead Man's Hand is rather laboured, with the characters repeatedly pointing out the similarities between the play and their own situation, and although there were some interesting twists in the first half, at the interval I wasn’t feeling inspired. Stick with it though, because the action hots up in the second half, as the actors’ bonhomie deteriorates into acrimony.

Sarah Clark gave a strong performance as Jennifer/Kate – confident and controlled. Tom Shorrock was believable as Brian/Martin, with his authority coming out well in his very long speech towards the end. Nick Pounder had a difficult part as David/Derek, having to register lots of different emotions. James Burton Stewart as Franco had a truly awful Italian accent (deliberate!).

Cathy Ramsell as Corinne/Angela was good in her small part (not much you can do if you get murdered early on), and Mary Auckland did well as the neurotic stage manager with a guilty secret.

Director Mari Fleming’s production needed more pace, and generally seemed a little under-rehearsed; some of the cast needed to be quicker picking up on their cues.

If you like a good whodunit, Dead Man’s Hand will keep you guessing until the end.


From the Newbury Weekly News.

The curious twist to Mortimer's murder

Mortimer Dramatic Society: Dead Man's Hand, at St John's Hall, Mortimer Common, on Friday, May 29, Saturday, May 30, Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6

A remote country house, half a dozen assorted guests invited by an anonymous host, and no communication with the outside world; these are the essential ingredients of the traditional Mousetrap-style whodunit as, one by the one, the victims meet their demise. This might be a dying genre - no pun intended - as it's not so easy to 'cut the telephone line' in today's mobile world.

Dead Man's Hand by Seymour Matthews - performed last week by Mortimer Dramatic Society - took these traditional elements and put an interesting spin on the usual murder mystery formula, leading to a quite unexpected conclusion. The audience soon realised that they were watching a play within a play and, in a curious twist, life began to mirror fiction as the actors suffered the same sticky end as the characters they were playing.

Director Mari Fleming's small cast worked well together, and switched comfortably between their two roles. The first act was somewhat more polished than the second, which meant that the pace dragged a little in places, but, overall, the characters developed well within the fast-paced script.

Nick Pounder gave a strong performance as Derek, the mounting angst clearly showing in his expression and bearing as the play unfolded.

Sarah Clark was confident and relaxed as Kate, while Tom Shorrock came across very well as the affable Martin. James Burton Stewart doubled well as actor and stage director, though his Frank was definitely more convincing than his Franco. Cathy Ramsell as Angela and Mary Auckland as the long-suffering technician Pamela completed the line-up.

Producer Jonathan Cawley's production team were well on cue throughout. Phil Ramsell's set was clean and well laid out, while lighting by Chris Chapman and Katja Hunt was atmospheric and very effective.

Dead Man's Hand continues this weekend if you fancy a chill on a warm evening.