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Silchester Players - Murdered To Death

14th to 15th and 21st to 22nd October 2011.

Review from Newbury Theatre.

There are many spoofs of the Agatha Christie genre, but Peter Gordon’s Murdered to Death is one of the funniest I’ve seen. Mildred, with her niece Dorothy, is hosting a house party for five unlikely guests, hindered by Bunting the butler. After Mildred is shot and killed by an unseen person, Inspector Pratt and his sidekick Constable Thomkins arrive to solve the case.

The aptly named Pratt is an inspired comic invention, possibly being the bastard offspring of Inspector Clouseau and Mrs Malaprop (the person who makes the allegations is the alligator, of course), and he was brilliantly played by Alan Moorhouse, desperately trying to cover up his clumsy bungling. Clive Solomons was very good as his put-upon assistant, in the end immobilised by his boss.

Among the guests, Tamasin Cook and Brian Gillett gave strong performances as the con artists Elizabeth Hartley-Trumptington and Pierre Marceau, switching very effectively from posh English and French accents to Cockney when they were rumbled. Janet Taylor was Miss Maple (geddit?), the harbinger of death who delighted in the gory details of the body while getting on with her knitting.

As Colonel Craddock, Tony Oliver was a little hesitant at the start but soon got into his stride, and Mari Fleming was his waspish wife, given the opportunity to blossom into nastiness at the end. John Coffin had a nice part as the grumpy and bolshie butler, knocking back the best sherry as well as the cooking sherry and the brandy. Sarah Oliver was very good in the straight role of Dorothy. Jill Gillett didn’t last long as Mildred, bumped off just as she was trying a little flirting and blackmail with Craddock.

The set was suitable for the period but a bit basic, although there were some nice touches – I’ve never seen a working sash window in an amateur production before.

Mandy Larby’s production was rather static at times, and the pace fell off in the second act, but the cast must have had a lot of fun with this very funny play.


Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Death becomes them

Silchester Players: Murdered to Death, at Silchester Village Hall, on Friday, October 14, Saturday, October 15, Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22

Murdered to Death (we are told on the programme front) is an Agatha Christie spoof and this charming production, performed by the Silchester Players at their village hall, certainly lived up to that promise.

This play has all the ingredients of a classic whodunit: the setting is a country mansion housing a cast of stereotypes. There's the rich single woman with dependant, drippy niece, a creepy butler with an eye on the brandy decanter, the henpecked buffoon Colonel and his domineering wife. Add to this a young couple (a spoilt rich girl and a shady French art dealer) and the scene is set for an evening of plot ravelling and unravelling. Completing the guest list is an elderly female sleuth called Miss Joan Maple.

The evening was a tangle of secrets and motives ranging from blackmail and art fraud to secret love affairs. Acting Inspector Pratt and Constable Tompkins were brought in to investigate.

Murdered to Death was a fine example of ensemble acting but Alan Moorhouse, as the hapless Pratt, was outstanding and his delivery got plenty of laughs - he was a joy to watch. His put-upon assistant (Clive Solomons) managed to inject some sincerity into the farcical situation. John Coffin was impressive as the rather unconventional butler, Bunting and he provided many of the comedic moments of the evening. Tony Oliver was superb as Colonel Craddock as was Mari Fleming as his wife. There was able support from Sarah Oliver as the downtrodden niece Dorothy. Janet Taylor portrayed the famous sleuth (Joan Maple) as gently condescending yet with a friendly attitude.

The period set was realistic and of the usual high Silchester standard. Directed by Mandy Larby, this was a polished production and provided the audience with an evening of sparkling entertainment.