By Cenarth Fox
Centenary Theatre group
Chelmer Community Hall
Corner of Queenscroft and Halsbury Streets
Season: May 7-28. Running time: approx two hours including interval. Bookings: www.centenarytheatre.com.au Enquiries to 0435 591 720.
This is a spoof comedy set around crime writer Agatha Christie. There are dozens of references to her work in this basic situation comedy. Her characters turn up with new names regularly and it is a lot of fun trying work out who is who; a whoarethey rather than a whodunit.
Agatha Crispie (Julie Moran) writes mystery stories. She longs for their publication but has more rejection slips than she has plots. She has written tomes titled Murder on the Cross-Pennine Express. The Rat Trap and Witness for the Defence.
Odd she never got published.
Agatha is married to a rich business man Archibald Wallowman (Gary McEwan) and lives in a stately mansion that has a nice library with false door behind a book case. Also in the house is stepdaughter Elvira (Stacey Erbacher) and Mother-in-law Lavinia Wallowman (Jill Brocklebank), who seems to come direct from Downton Abbey. Keeping the recipe cooking is Agatha’s drunken old maid Pimms (Meg Hinselwood) who pops in and out of the action - and gets most of the laughs
The family hate Agatha’s low-brow writing and still can’t understand how she came to be Archie’s bride. So among all this angst Agatha plots a crime. She dresses up as a reporter, fools Archie into thinking she is not herself and then becomes a body in the library, with a knife in her chest, poison in her pocket and a stocking tied round her neck.
When the body is discovered Agatha comes back to life, confides in Pimms and disappears behind the bookcase.
Then it on for one and all as Scotland yard detective Sir Heny Dithering (Alan Youngson), Hercule Greycells (Erik de Wit), Miss Mary Mead (Cathy de Vos) and Chief Inspector Sap (Rilki de Vos) try to solve the mystery of the body in the library and the disappearance of Agatha herself.
This is an odd play, but very funny in patches. Director Brian Hinselwood had the characters played as caricatures, the bumbling upper-crust, plumb-in-mouth Archie, the drawling Sir Henry, the archetypal spinster detective Mary Mead, the heavily accented Belgian Greycells, the winsome and selfish Elvira and the domineering Lavinia.
It was a bit of a strain sometimes though with constantly lifted pronouns. There were so many long “I’s” it must had added minutes to the length of the play. As one director wisely said to his cast: “We know who you are, we want to know what you did.”
Maybe this is something to look at for the rest of the run. It certainly spoiled things for me at times.
Each actor did well to maintain the strange accents and demeanour of their characters but Meg Hinselwood as Pimms, took the main honours. She was excellent and kept the audience laughing.
The first act on opening night was a bit slow, with a few blank spots, but there were still a lot of laughs and I’m sure when the actors are more secure they will come even faster.
The original production of this play ran for three hours, but this production came in with an act of one hour and another of around 45 minutes, which is probably a good job. It certainly weaves a tangled web.