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New Era - Disposing of the Body

2nd to 10th to 12th and 15th to 19th March 2011.

Here is the NWN review.

Cast well-disposed towards Whitemore murder

New Era Players: Disposing of the Body, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Thursday, March 10 to Saturday, March 12 and Tuesday, March 15 to Saturday, March 19

A string of excellent performances, combined with playwright Hugh Whitemore's skill, made this New Era Theatre production a success.

It has the setting (Gloucestershire), characters and sort-of cliffhanger plot, mixed with home-made muffins and cakes bought at fetes that made Agatha Christie books so popular, though that venerable author's works never included the torrid passions to be found in Whitemore's play.

Recently retired, Henry Preece enlists the help of a neighbour, the elegant Joanna Barley, to help him complete his book on long playing records.

The ever-increasing hours she works turn into opportunities for passionate sexual encounters as the pair find themselves in the grip of an infatuation.

It seems unlikely that Henry's wife Angela suspects but when, mysteriously, she does not return from a shopping trip to London, he is distraught, blaming himself for having said that he wished "she'd just disappear".

He confesses the affair not only to his son Ben (Chris Billingham), who has returned from LA, and Kate (Marie Jacobs), his sister, but also to Alexander (Mark Carveth), Jo's husband. He also tells Detective Inspector Clive Poole (David Tute), who is investigating Angela's disappearance, helped by Bassett (David Zeke), a hotelier who recognises Henry as a guest who has given a false name.

Throughout the play the action freezes and individual characters take over to move the plot forward, a ploy which Whitemore has used before.

The minimalist set - splashy indications of Tudor beams on a white background - works well as the setting for this story in which human relationships come first and the suspected murder second and which has frequent touches of humour in among the angst.

Nigel Winter gives an outstanding performance as Henry, the errant husband suspected of murder, matched by that of Mark Carveth as Jo's ebullient husband.

Equally excellent were Anne Oldham (Angela), Kathleen Ray (Joanna) and Marie Jacobs (Kate), each defining the character they played, making the women very different and thus enhancing the dialogue.

This was a good choice of play, and all credit must go to every member of the cast and to director Tim Oldham.

A very watchable production.