Murder in Rehearsal
by Angela Lanyon
presented by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Julie Petrucci
You can always be sure of a warm welcome when you visit Waterbeach School to watch a WCP production. The FOH folks are always smartly attired, quietly efficient and with friendly smiles to cheer away the murky November evening.
Their latest presentation "Murder In Rehearsal" by Angela Lanyon was something rather different - an audience participation comedy thriller. Seated at tables with a selection of fliers for forthcoming shows and a dish of peanuts, the audience's attention was directed to the entry form inviting them to play detective during the interval by naming the victim, the perpetrator, the reason and the method of the impending murder. This had the immediate effect of alerting us that we should be giving a particularly high level of concentration to the dialogue.
The characters were introduced to us as they arrived for rehearsal of Romeo & Juliet and what an ill assorted lot they were: Doreen (Val Furness), the props lady and general factotum, was obviously much put upon and had the added worry of an ailing husband at home. Tracey (Katherine Maltby), new to the group and exceedingly keen (knew her lines already) although severely miscast as Lady Capulet. Simon (Chris Shinn), teacher at the local comprehensive and, in his opinion, God's gift to the female species - aptly cast as Romeo. Belle (Catherine Perkins) erstwhile femme fatale obviously closely connected to Simon and playing Juliet. Wilmot (Roy Furness) a pretentious fool with delusions of being a theatrical director, having a business in trouble and a wife who had previously dallied with Simon. Phil (Bill Bullivant) a garage proprietor regularly found frequenting the local hostelries. Jessica (Christine Easterfield) dog loving, toffee nosed estate agent - playing the nurse.
With no set as such - it was played on the stage just as it was with piles of tables and chairs - it was vital that the actors not only had knowledge and conviction of their own character but their relationship to and with all the others. And they succeeded, as was apparent from their first appearance. We instantly recognised their varying personalities and foibles and, from their seemingly banal and trite conversations during the course of Wilmot's ill prepared and conducted rehearsal ( he even condoned drinks being fetched from the pub across the road - a practice readers of Combinations will be certainly not be familiar with), we began to identify and suspect reasons for a possible murder. All the clues were cunningly planted in the dialogue and the action culminating with the discovery of the body in the Car Park just as the curtain fell on Act 1.
The hall was a buzz of cheerful chatter during the interval as theories were expounded, approved or dismissed and the forms handed in.
As Act 2 opened we quickly discovered who the victim was so that was Question No 1 resolved. However, the ensuing dialogue led us through several possibilities and suspicions as to the remaining answers but it wasn't until we heard the confession from the guilty party that we had all the facts confirmed.
Lots of us had three out of the four answers right but the weapon required a bit more imagination as it was only obliquely referred to in the dialogue - no excuses, it was obvious once logic was applied and memory recalled the sequence of events.
In good Mousetrap tradition we were asked not to reveal whodunit to any other prospective playgoers.
This was a most pleasant and sociable evening obviously enjoyed and appreciated by those of us watching and those performing. Julie Petrucci, a director light years away from Wilmot (thank goodness) gave us a tight, well rehearsed and finely crafted production with lots of attention to detail. She was superbly supported by her very strong and talented cast who, without exception, gave first rate performances. I must however, comment on Katherine's portrayal of 25 year old Tracey. For a youngster of barely 16 she treated us to a very mature and thoughtful characterisation with excellent facial expressions and a good clear delivery - I was genuinely taken aback when I learned of her youthfulness afterwards - one to watch out for! Well done everybody.
Congratulations also to the backstage crew on being efficient and unobtrusive and finally, how nice to have a really good quality and value programme.
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Phone: 01223 880023