A back room at the attractive Sandford House is fittingly transformed into the sitting room of the Murder League; a club for the premier crime writers of England. With the death of another colleague, the three remaining founding members – Trevor Foyle, Dora Winslow and Barty Cruikshank – are reminded that their heyday is far behind them and that the future of crime fiction is gruesome and inelegant. So, in true British style, they decide that something must be done to remind the world of just how well-designed and intriguing murder can be.
Fans of any of the well known British crime writers, or indeed the more modern BBC TV series that run along the same vein, will find a lot to like in this play. Though there are some lapses of logic and necessarily far fetched ideas in the script, it does well to combine the mystery of the stories it is based on with a dry self-deprecating humour. This is a technically difficult piece, requiring some ingenuity from the designers and stage crew to carry off the manoeuvres required and, for the most part, this is accomplished though the close proximity of the stage area and audience does render some effects less impressive.
Director Matthew Taylor has elicited good performances from the majority of his cast. As the intrepid trio, intent on committing the perfect crime but coming up against the setbacks of old age, Aaron Braegen, Elizabeth Graham and Sam Tutty do well to inhabit roles that are written for people a half century older than they. Kudos must also go to hair and make-up artist Kahlia Tutty for managing to make the young actors look well worn and aged; her attention to detail is to be commended. The most convincing transformation is that of Alastair Collins as the bumbling club butler Charters. Collins plays this small role with perfect timing, injecting humour into every appearance. Paul Briske, in the role of modern crime writer Simon Vale, has just the right amount of pomposity and arrogance to counteract the docile and graceful nature of the older writers without appearing over the top.
This is not the usual Fringe fare, being a play more suited to the annual programme of one of the well-established local amateur theatre companies. However, for what it is, it is done well and will appeal to those people who are looking for something a little more traditional in their festival experience.
Kryztoff Rating: 3.5K
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