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This production proved two things, first, why Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries have lasted so long and second how lucky Lichfield is to have the Players still keeping the true spirit of drama alive, like a real Rep.
Their latest production under Brian Todd’s effervescent direction is an object lesson in how to entertain an almost capacity crowd just dying (sorry) to enjoy themselves.
This is a classic play that used to be called by a much less politically correct name and dates from an age when it was still possible to go to an afternoon matinee, open a box of Milk Tray and have a rattling good time.
And it’s a very sound play still as projected here, a sort of comedy thriller simply packed with stock characters and stereotypes used in an endlessly inventive way and often touching genuine unease.
Adrienne Swallow is comically delightful as the classic put-upon housekeeper while Dale Preece-Kelly (great name) as her butler husband is a real find. Phil Shaw is tremulously aristocratic as an arthritic, aristocratic old soldier while Ruth Hawkins has a lovely line in disagreeableness like a sort of scolding Miss Marple. Dickie Bannister as a shady surgeon has a lot to do in the second half keeping his nose clean and himself above ground while Robbie Beck as the posh silly ass Bertie Wooster-type drew plenty of laughs from the back row.
The main credits must go to Vera Claythorne as the elegantly sexy secretary and prime suspect, Chris Jenkins as the suave, good-looking ex-officer, and of course to our own dear Stephen Brunton whose effortlessly reliable stage-craft as usual made the whole thing work.
But there’s one last player who deserves a very special mention, Richard Bannister, new to me, whose dual role as hostage and policeman had a vigour and intensity that promises great things to come.
I loved the professional set, the superb sound effects and especially the wonderful lighting whose workings genuinely had me foxed. A great night out on our own doorstep, as reliable as a pair of old slippers and believe me, just as treasured. May the Players prosper long.
The production runs until tomorrow (October 3). For tickets phone the box office on 01543 412121 or visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com.
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