Malvern Theatre – until 12 March 2016
Secondary Cause of Death has landed at Malvern Theatres for the final leg of its tour, written by Peter Gordon and produced by Talking Scarlet. This features the bumbling Inspector Pratt who makes an appearance in a trilogy of Gordon plays (Death by Fatal Murder and Murdered to Death are the other two).
Set in Colonel Charles Craddock’s Country Manor House, Bagshot House, the guests of the Colonel are embarking upon a murder mystery style ‘parlour game’ which is hosted and written by Cynthia Maple (sister of Joan Maple, a nod towards Joan Marple, presumably!). Included in this charade are Count Puchlik of Puszczykowo from Poland, Lady Isodora Pollock who takes great delight in taking part in the game, over-acting like crazy.
There’s also Henrietta Woolmer-Cardington who is an army captain and appears to be nice but dim – or is she? Lily Tuthill the cook who looks ready to skin a rabbit at a moment’s notice, and Cardew Longfellow, an actor employed by Miss Maple, who just happens to pay a resemblance to the Colonel – or does he? Either way, the bodies start piling up and the race is on to find out whodunit.
What’s refreshing about this is that it’s a farcical murder mystery and the ‘garden paths’ it leads the audience up are not only numerous, but all result in great hilarity. Inspector Pratt (played by David Callister with comic genius) moves from accusing no-one, declaring an obvious murder to be the secondary cause of death to announcing himself as the culprit (although he plans to plead innocent). It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud with such frequency during an evening at the theatre, and at a murder mystery of all things!
Judy Buxton is perfectly cast and puts in an excellent performance as Cynthia Maple, she’s the epitome of the formidable busy-body who sets the hapless Inspector straight. Liz Garland could be likened to a chameleon in her role as Henrietta, seemingly innocent but with a wholly different persona behind closed doors, Garland is an actress to watch out for, she shines in this production. Polly Smith is equally well cast as Lily Tuthill, the south western cook with her Mrs Overall style gait who is also not what she seems. David Janson brings a Manuel from Fawlty Towers quality to the role of the Count, he has some excellent slapstick scenes with Callister. Then there’s Jeffrey Holland, who demonstrates one of the many reasons why, in my opinion, he’s one of our finest actors and remains so after years in the business, he switches seamlessly between the Colonel and Longfellow, his diction is precise and each character is played as an individual.
Secondary Cause of Death finishes its run in Malvern on Saturday 12 March and that is where the tour ends, so get your tickets by visiting this link: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/