Murdered to Death

Murdered to Death
By Peter Gordon. Director: Dawn Ridsdale. Frankston Theatre Group Nov 16th – Dec 2nd, 2012

Frankston Theatre Group has been entertaining the Peninsula for over 70 years and their latest production is sure to please the stalwart supporters. Presented in cabaret style at Mt Eliza Community Hall, it allowed audience members to bring wine and nibbles and get into the mood of the play, the very funny Murdered to Death – a Whodunnit which tips its hat to Agatha Christie – even down to a busybody “Miss Maple” from the local village.

Dawn Ridsdale stepped in at the last minute to replace a director who was ill, and she’s done a fine job. Despite the usual first night nerves which saw some cues not picked up quickly enough and some fluffs in dialogue, the play was a comedy delight and excellent Christmas season entertainment. The two senior members of the company, Dan Ellis (Bunting the Butler) and Dave Wearne (Charles) were particularly good, with Wearne covering his fluffs with great aplomb. Both showed a great feel for the 1930s period and got the most out of every comic moment. Though the opening night audience didn’t laugh as much as they should, I thought both of them were comic gems.

The two “juvenile leads” (to use a 30s term) were terrifically cast. Naomi Woodward (Elizabeth) handled both accents well and was suitably coquettish. She has great stage charisma and sophisticated comic timing. As her other half, Mark Moore (Pierre) was suitably dashing and again handled both accents well. There was a great energy between the two which helped the overall pace of the production. The remaining cast were good and will no doubt get better as the season progresses, but honours must go to Braiden Barnard as Constable Thomkins. He gave an absolutely delightful performance as the young copper who is smarter than his boss. His timing was impeccable. Then there is Michael Laity as Inspector/Sergeant Pratt. He gives us a classic comic performance of a bumbling lovechild of Inspector Clouseau and Hercule Poirot. This was great slapstick comedy beautifully performed and Laity’s experience certainly showed. I can only imagine how good his performance will be when lifted by a truly involved audience.

The set (designed by Dave Wearne) was stunning – it truly looked like the expensive drawing room of a great country house. The attention to such detail as the working crystal chandelier in the hallway (only seen when the beautiful double doors are opened) sets a standard not often seen in Community theatre. Lighting was excellent and sound was also good. The plot is fairly nonsensical, but who cares? Bring your drinks and nibbles and be prepared to laugh out loud. It’s all about enjoying yourselves, both on-stage and off.

Coral Drouyn

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