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New Era - The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery

3rd to 5th and 8th to 12th December 2009.

Here is the NWN review.

Murder and mayhem

New Era Players: The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Thursday, December 3 to Saturday, December 5 and Thursday, December 8 to Saturday, December 12

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1976 with writers David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr's version of Macbeth, and I must admit I remember it well - such pioneering fun.

So I was really pleased to be able to catch New Era's version of their Murder Mystery. This is a wonderful spoof on amateur dramatic societies that had the audience laughing in their seats from the very beginning at the antics of the actors.

The talented cast of five played at least 14 parts between them. There were some awkward late or early exits and entrances, unexpected costume changes, lighting and sound effects going wrong, stage directions are spoken and scenery falling down; all part of the fun, but taken very seriously by the cast to hilarious effect.

We were welcomed to the theatre by Mrs Reece and all dutifully stood for the National Anthem and 'notes'.

The play was set in Checkmate Manor; the whole set reflecting the chess theme. The plot was a typical Agatha Christie murder mystery. The family gathered together for the reading of the late Sir Richard Bishop's will but a dastardly murder had already been committed. Pawn, the butler (Daphne George), yes I know it's an awful joke but it's that sort of play, welcomed the guests and what a pot-pourri of characters they turn out to be. Mike Stokoe was the gormless inspector trying to solve the crime (he so reminded me of Blakey in On the Buses). He fell in love with Daphne, Lady Bishop's daughter - a charming upstaging performance from Nicola Sowden.

Sally Scrivener was a wonderful widow, forgetting lines or getting them in the wrong order. More murders followed in fairly quick succession and the whole situation became increasingly bizarre.

Pam Hillier-Brooke was a true tour-de-force, moving with complete confidence between her six characters, each one a gem. She even served coffees in the interval prior to the fashion show (don't ask, you had to be there).

Seven of the family were eventually killed. So who was the murderer? Even the denouement was interrupted... well, the result of the quiz had to be announced.

Full credit to the cast who embraced the genre with enthusiasm and panache. Directed with pace and tongue-in-cheek humour by Kathleen Ray, this was a highly entertaining and enjoyable romp - perfect for the festive season.