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New Era Players - The Hollow

8th to 17th September 2022

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Kept guessing to the very end

Classic Agatha Christie: New Era Players entertaining whodunnit The Hollow

On the night the Queen had died, the show had to go on, but only after a minute’s silence.

Putting on an Agatha Christie is a bold move – her plays are well known and well-loved – but this production held true to the sense of time and place – kudos to the set and costume teams.

Published in 1946, the original story was a case for Hercule Poirot, but this production featured the methodical Detective Inspector Colquhoun, played assuredly by Don Crerar.

It was all very Christie-like.

At a country weekend, hosted by Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell – Mike Huxtable and Karen Ashby relishing their roles – the extremely unlikeable Dr John Cristow (Neil Padgen) is fatally shot. His downtrodden wife, the innocent Gerda (Suzanne Pearson) seems oblivious to his faults

The group is completed by some distant cousins – Henrietta, played by an elegant Emily Browne who had the costumes to match, the young and slightly forlorn Midge, whose annoyance at being overlooked by cousin Edward was conveyed by Isabella Goldsmith and Andrew J Smith playing the part of Edward as a ‘typical male not spotting what’s right under his nose’ type.

The deluded Hollywood film star (played convincingly by New Era stalwart Pippa Higgins) added a touch of glamour to proceedings. Steve Schollar was a world-weary but faithful butler Gudgeon, with maid Doris (Jess Soulby) providing a bit of comedy. As did UI Colquhoun’s sidekick Detective Sergeant Penny whose lack of experience next to his boss was finely conveyed by Nell Padgen (unrecognisable from his earlier role).

On opening night you might expect a few missed cues or silences while the actors collect their thoughts and move the action on. But this did not bother an enthusiastic audience who laughed at Lady Angkatell’s eccentricity and, in the case of the two spectators sitting next to me who were comparing notes in the interval, were kept guessing as to whodunnit to the end.

The New Era Players are a slick troupe of amateur actors and like a well-oiled machine they know how to keep their audience entertained.