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Mortimer Dramatic Society - Natural Causes

21st to 22nd and 28th to 29th October 2011

Review from Newbury Theatre.

Eric Chappell’s Natural Causes is a dark comedy about assisted suicide. Vincent is from Exodus, a group that provides people with the means to commit suicide, using a hemlock-like drug. Arriving at Walter Brice’s house, he assumes that Walter is the one who wants to end it all. Walter has other plans: it’s his wife Celia who is for the chop, so he can carry on his affair with his secretary Angie. With the arrival of Withers from the Samaritans, mistaken identities continue until the confusion eventually resolves itself.

James Burton Steward gave a strong performance as Vincent, always menacing, thoroughly unlikeable but with a touch of E.L. Wisty. As Walter, Tom Shorrock’s energy count was set to max all the way through. That works for a farce, but this more subtle comedy needed a less full-on approach.

Gilly Lee was a believably vampish Angie. Megan Bush played Celia, the will-she-won’t-she woman, who is actually a lot more scheming than we at first realise. Ian Beavon was delightful as Withers, showing the right mixture of earnestness and self-doubt.

The play was hampered by a lot of hesitancy with the words, and far too many prompts. I saw the final performance, and to have prompts by then suggests that more rehearsals are needed.

The set, designed by Lawrence Picking, was brilliant. Wall to wall books along the back, and generally very well presented. The pot plant got progressively sicker with each scene, and there was even a radiator with plumbing (not called for by the script).

Natural Causes is a well-constructed play with much humour, which MDS brought out well at times. There were some very funny moments, including Vincent’s first encounter with Withers, and Vincent’s grim depiction of the stoker from HMS Belfast, and despite some hiccups the cast worked well together.