The Greville Theatre Club

Murder In Play

by Simon Brett

Oct/Nov 1998

Directed by
Karen Ashton
and Judy Lee



Review by Paul Dietrich

Poor Harrison ended up locked in the cupboard at the end of Simon Brett's Murder in Play, completely mystified as to who had committed said foul deed.

David Faithfull's affable old drunk was as much in the dark as we were for most of the performance which, billed as a "comedy thriller", got more laughs than gasps. The play within a play saw a fictional two-bob outfit performing a murder mystery, deciding the show had to go on despite leading lady and director's wife (Renee, played by Marcia Baldry) getting poisoned just days before the opening night. As Pat fixed catch upon catch to the cupboard door to stop Harrison from bursting forth too early in a central scene, twist upon twist was spun out in the Greville Theatre Club's Bonfire Night production.

In the end, the first rule of detective work was upheld - always suspect the quiet one. In this case it was Rebecca Rowland's Pat who was driven to the deed out of love for director Boris Smolensky, played by Andy Jameson.

Watching the tale unravel at the Barn Theatre, Little Easton, entailed some suspension of disbelief, not least because it would be amazing if someone as camp as Smolensky could court the affections of so many girls in real life.

The fictional company of has-beens and hopefuls did not allow the small matter of murder to halt the production, but Esther Rowland's Sophie and David Bone's Tim were not convinced justice had been done when dim Jeanette (Fiona Hughes) took the rap. The plucky pair stole Hamlet's idea of staging a play within the fictional play to flush out the culprit.

Consequently we had a play within a play within a play and it was to the credit of the cast, and Karen Ashton and Judy Lee's direction, that the audience did not lose the plot despite losing track of who was number one suspect. All concerned equipped themselves well, especially Esther Rowland and David Faithfull - the latter producing the comic highlights of a production eager to please in its light entertainment approach. Towards the finale, under Boris' dictatorial direction, Tim was told to be more "squeaky" and Jeanette more "distinct". Consequently he ended up talking like Jeanette, who in turn squeezed out her lines like a doll who talks thanks to a draw-string in her back. Great stuff indeed.




Review by James Bright

Last week the rafters of the Barn Theatre in Little Easton rocked with the laughter of the audience watching the Greville Theatre Club's latest production "Murder in Play" by Simon Brett.

Karen Ashton and Judy Lee were the Co-directors who kept the action bubbling along. The actors' timing was such that no opportunity for a laugh was missed. Set in the 1920s, the play records the activities of a touring theatre company owned by the penny-pinching producer, Boris. The pitifully poor play in rehearsal concerns a murder. In fact one of the cast is murdered and the play becomes a 'who-dun-it'

Boris was played with thespian affectation by Andy Jameson. He was a powerful presence on stage, driven to distraction by the weaknesses of his cast. Marcia Baldry had a fine touch as Renee, the leading lady. She was able to make enemies with a flick of her tongue. Her exchanges in the first act with Madeline Harmer as Christa almost had the audience calling out for more. Basking in her recollections of past fame in a television series, Madeline Harmer was an earnest vegetarian who could hold her own in the field of sarcasm.

David Faithful played an alcoholic who hid his bottles all over the stage. Unable to remember his lines in the play, he showed a real talent for extracting laughs merely by movement. Jeannette, played by Fiona Hughes, succumbed to the philandering habits of her producer. She portrayed a feather-brained flapper with a Woy Jenkins' speech impediiment. Her admirer, Tim, as a shell-shocked officer, was played by David Bone. He demonstrated his vocal range and how a facial twitch can be effectively conveyed, even from behind.

In contrast to the eccentricities of the actors, Pat, the harassed stage manager, played by Rebecca Rowland was thoroughly practical. Sophie, played by Esther Rowland with flair and with a down to earth Scouse accent emphasising her normality, contrived to unravel all the threads of the mystery at the end of the play. This was another evening of enjoyment given by the Greville Theatre Club.