On a cold, wet and windy evening, I wound my way through half-lit country lanes to a venue I have not had the pleasure of visiting before. However, the warm and friendly welcome I received proved a great start to a very enjoyable evening.
This group has been delighting audiences for over fifty years and tonight’s performance which was very well supported is no exception. As the curtains sweep back, the audience is transported to the lounge of a retirement home for thespians, Maple Lodge. Adorning the walls of this simple bright room are some rather lovely, black and white photographs of the occupants in their heyday. The set is stiff with a range of upright dining chairs and lacks any real comfort but works well given the constraints of the stage.
On a winter afternoon, while the snow is falling heavily outside, we begin to meet the characters and the plot unfolds. This play is a tightly plotted mystery and the characters are well differentiated. Each personality is carefully introduced and is instantly recognisable to anyone who has, in whatever way, spent their life in the realms of theatre. The many rivalries between, and old grudges held by, the residents are brought to the fore by a spate of anonymous poison-pen letters having been discovered over the past few weeks. The home may also be under threat of closure due to money constraints.
Every personality was carefully portrayed by the performances of this close-knit community group and it is very difficult to describe a performance that stood out when a script seems to give equal opportunity to everyone in the cast.
Nevertheless, I was particularly delighted with Olivia, a steely grand dame, played perfectly by Caroline Burr. Anne Maynard amply depicted the rudeness and haughty demeanour of Sybil, and Larry’s affable and camp character, played by Tom Martin, added a cuddly quality to the proceedings.
Murder On Cue by Robin Jennifer Miller is an ingeniously crafted murder mystery with a comedy twist and as this performance matures, it poses questions at every turn:
Who is Piers?
Who scribed the poison pen letters?
Who built the snowman?
Will there be enough food?
More importantly, will there be enough alcohol?
To answer these and many more questions, I suggest you see this play at the Memorial Hall in West Moors, performing tonight and tomorrow evening, 22 and 23 November at 7.45pm.