Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Murderous fun is part of the ?game?

WOODCOTE Amateur Dramatic Society?s autumn production, Murder Weekend by Bettine Manktelow, directed thoughtfully by Terry Sopp, was well attended and well received by audiences at Woodcote Village Hall on October 8, 9 and 10.

Murder Weekend
Woodcote Village Hall
Friday, October 9



WOODCOTE Amateur Dramatic Society?s autumn production, Murder Weekend by Bettine Manktelow, directed thoughtfully by Terry Sopp, was well attended and well received by audiences at Woodcote Village Hall on October 8, 9 and 10.

Billed as a comedy thriller, the action surrounds a murder mystery-themed weekend for couples at a country hotel.

The set was simple but well conceived ? the archetypal Sixties hotel lounge complete with antler horns, reception desk and bell, all of which helped to create the right atmosphere for the unfolding drama.

Four couples were expected to take part in the murder mystery, only three arrived, but they were joined by an unexpected guest and the other players were the hotel proprietress, Mrs Johnson and the hotel maid, Shelly.

Parallels with Fawlty Towers were never far away at the hotel and this found its best expression in the person of Mrs Johnson, played admirably by Jenny Page, in perfect, patronising Sybil Fawlty style ? a really strong performance for a first-timer. The removal of an earring to answer the phone was great attention to detail. The part of Shelly, meanwhile, was a great vehicle for young cast member Chloe Spiers, who was an excellent foil for her employer.

The first couple to arrive were the Wagstaffs ? Livia and Stanley. Kathy Laughton played the vacuous, writer?s blocked, fiction writer, and bored, adulterous wife, to a tee ? and Mike Foster was perfectly in character as the rather staid husband who worked in waste recycling.

The arrival of the next guests, the one her old school contemporary, the other her ex-lover, comes as a considerable shock to Livia and to the couple, Patsy and Ashley McAvoy. Livia?s relationship with Ashley is soon rekindled, as are her creative talents.

Debbie Wise performed splendidly as the neurotic, suspicious Patsy, and Simon Morley ? another first-timer ? as the adulterous husband, dealt well with the contrast between his pleasure at seeing Livia again and his fear of discovery by Patsy. The third couple, murder mystery enthusiasts, Dorothy Padmore and Violet Jenkins, well portrayed by Heather Simpson and Janice Chaffey, added some humour and some confusion.

Their conviction that everything that was happening was part of the ?game? helped create an air of the surreal which was essential to the play.

This lifted the spirits of Stanley, who chose to believe his wife?s infidelity was part of the game ? a belief not shared by Patsy.

Wallace Wainwright, a rather diffident ex-schoolmaster, played with his usual assurance by society stalwart John Worsfold, arrived unexpectedly due to a car problem, but his ulterior revenge motive was a previous internet date which the promiscuous Livia had failed to keep.

The disappearance and reappearance of Shelly, the complicated entanglements between the characters, past and present, the non-appearance of one couple and the surprise appearance of a final, single guest ? were all these part of Mrs Johnson?s murder weekend or not? Who cares? It was good fun.

Review: Sam Peates

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