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I don’t know about you but for me there’s nothing like a cosy murder mystery on a cold February evening to chase away those end-of-winter blues, and Middle Ground’s A Murder is Announced turns out to be just the job.
It’s got the lot – a sleepy English village, a country house, mystery invitations plus a murder, oh, and of course Miss Marple picking her way daintily through the gory panoply of mischief and mayhem as only she can.
Right from the start this production directed and designed by Michael Lunney announces that it’s quality stuff. The elegantly appointed set has a rightness and richness that clearly says no expense has been spared, while the spot-on costumes perfectly capture the social gradations of this very comfortable, even luxurious middle class life as well as giving the ladies plenty opportunity to show them off. Even the lighting, so often neglected, is spot on.
There’s no point in me even beginning to unravel the plot – for a start it would spoil all the surprises and there are plenty; but I will just say that very satisfyingly here in this apparently sleepy little Cotswold village of Chipping Cleghorn nothing is even remotely what it seems.
Fortunately, the excellent Judy Cornwell as Miss Marple is on hand to sort it out, although it’s got to be said in this ingeniously complicated plot it takes even all her powers of observation and detection to get at the surprising truth. With its stock characters it’s as clichéd as Cluedo but plenty of fun, and no one takes themselves too seriously in this often very funny production.
In a beautifully-cast ensemble of 12 it’s hard to single out anyone, but Diane Fletcher is marvellous as the glamorous Letitia Blacklock, Tom Butcher is the perfect plod as Inspector Craddock while Sarah Thomas dithers delightfully as the doddery Dora Bunner.
But there’s always a star and here it’s Lydia Piechowiak as the refugee maid who quite simply manages to steal the show.
This Rolls Royce of a production is dedicated to the delightful task of cheering us all up and it works. I wish the company a very happy week here in lovely in Lichfield. Come back soon.
A Murder is Announced runs in the main house until
Saturday (February 27). For tickets phone the box office on 01543 412121 or go online at www.lichfieldgarrick.com.
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