Ah, the ‘Whodunnit’. A classic genre for fiction and for theatre. You settle down to an evening of theatre, anticipating a couple of hours or so of twists, turns, guessing games, lies and, if you’re lucky, something to chuckle at too. Mix that anticipation up with the fact that it is an Agatha Christie play and you feel that you are justified in your excitement. All that is left to satiate your expectation is the will of the performers and the staging.
Phew! In the hands of RMDS, Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web is safe.
It is the tale of a murder at the house of newly (second) married politician, Henry Hailsham-Brown – rarely seen but ably performed by Paul Berry – and his wife, Clarissa (a lovely showing for Jacqueline Reynolds). Henry’s daughter, Pippa, is played by Taylor Button, a true star in the making: so much energy and excellent light and shade, and very convincing in the ‘upset’ bits.
Clarissa is helped in the necessary cover-up of a murder by her lifelong guardian, Rowland (Richard Bennett), local JP Hugo (Peter Ansell) and the ‘young house-guest’, Jeremy (James Butler). All three actors work very well together to keep the piece crackling along.
Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but Tim McConnell as Oliver Costello, the murderee (a made-up word), is great to watch as a snide, unpleasant, Terry-Thomas, moustache-twiddling (without the moustache, but you get the drift) bounder and cad and, as the body has to remain on stage for some time, his ability to remain still is to be applauded.
You need a copper. Steven Reynolds as Inspector Lord does a good job here and as his assistant, Constable Jones, Ethan Wilkinson makes a good stab at the accent and, in the earlier bits, has some cracking looks that bring a good laugh.
As the Hailsham-Browns are in the upper echelons of society, they have ‘help’. That is provided by Butler Elgin (nicely done by Nigel Bonynge) along with his unseen wife, the maid. And you have a gardener. This comes in the shape of Mildred Peake. In this part, Lucie Evans is an absolute joy to watch and listen to. The stage and the pace of the piece seem to ignite when she was on. For me she is the star of the show.
The cover-ups, the fibs, the intrigue are all helped by pace and, for the most part, the pace it pretty well done in this production – director John Turpin and his assistant, Rosemary Guy, are to be commended. Yes, there were a few first-night jitters, but nothing that had a detrimental effect on the piece.
Finally, a real shout-out for the set. Superbly created and dressed, it is an open-curtain set, which really makes all the difference during the anticipatory sitting I alluded to at the start of this review.
Future performances: 28 and 29 October at 7.30.