Jan 27 2014 By Jamie McLoughlin
Southport Dramatic Club presents
Murdered to Death
Directed by Adrian Roberts Southport Little Theatre.
Until February 1.
THEY were a hardy lot in 1930s society Britain.
Art fraud, extra-marital affairs, murder. You could throw whatever you like at those people in their country piles and their upper lips remained steadfast and resolute.
Chuck an unannounced, unseasonal butterfly into the mix and their resolve becomes ever steelier.
Luckily, flappers were already old news in pre-war Blighty. Even though the unexpected stage invasion was at the centre of most of the post-show conversations (certainly on my train home), the cast of the Adrian Roberts-directed Murdered to Death were correct to brush aside this brash interloper at every opportunity.
We can at least be thankful that the insect determined to become a permanent fixture on the stage (and costumes) of this likeable murder mystery spoof had the decency to wear black as death and devilment was all over the place.
Peter Gordon’s script takes all the recognisable elements of a Christie-esque plot and gives them an affectionate ribbing, most obviously in the shape of Miss Joan Maple (a spot-on portrayal by Trudi Hirsch, right down to the walk). This is the seemingly meek, elderly spinster who, her fellow characters note, has a habit of turning up in places where people get bumped off.
Things don’t change in the home of Mildred (Tracey Batchelor) who lives with her niece and heir Dorothy (Ceri Watkins). It’s difficult to review a murder mystery without giving too much of the plot away but for anyone who has tickets for the rest of the run, make the most of Batchelor’s fine performance as, umm, you may not see much of her in the second act.
Mildred has been getting mischievous with Colonel Craddock (a suitably plummy Stephen Pritchard who relishes the opportunities the ‘what ho, old girl’ style character gives him) for much of his 35-year marriage to Margaret (Helen Pritchard). They are both guests at her smashing bash where the guest list also includes the well-at-heel Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington (Catherine Leight) and French art dealer Pierre Marceau (Nick Lloyd). Inevitably, it is only after Miss Maple invites herself to dinner that somebody starts picking people off.