"To save time I'll write my review on the way to the theatre..."
This is a cheerful romp in cheerfully bad taste. Two old ladies are "sending their lodgers to peace" using a home-made blend of arsenic, strychnine, cyanide and elderberry wine. Mad nephew Teddy is burying them in the "Panama canal" in the basement. Innocent nephew Mortimer, who is only trying to get married and review awful plays, is caught up in the middle, and then long-lost nephew the evil mobster Jonathon reappears with his sidekick Dr Einstein. They have a dead body of their own to dispose of and soon the police are sniffing around, though they may just be after the biscuits. This is old-style farce, the plot more Wodehouse than Christie, and you know the confusion will get worse before it gets better.
There are a lot of characters, and rather than the cast doubling parts the crew put in cameo appearances. This decision seems a bit odd, and the accents are less consistent in the incidental parts. However the acting in general is good. Steve Lomon is menacingly evil as Jonathon, so much that you hope you won't bump into him on the way home. Ben Galpin is delightfully unctuous as the Dr and Lucas O'Connor makes a good job of the straight man around whom the plot, and his family, unwind:
"Madness runs in the family. In fact it gallops!"
But for me the highlight of the play is the interaction between the elderly sisters Abby and Martha. They are played with charm and innocence, not to mention tons of talcum powder, by Charlotte Bayley and Grace Elizabeth Overbeke, who push the parts as far over the top as they can without becoming outright pantomime. And they do a lovely line in hatching plots together.
My quibbles are minor: the characters were dying to slam the doors, which weren't quite up to it, and I found the first scene a bit slow (though I suspect that's really due to the way the play is written, and to my confusing Arsenic with The Ladykillers and wondering why I didn't recognise the plot)! But overall this looks like a production being performed as much for the enjoyment of the cast as the audience, and which, judging by the potted biographies, brings out people's surreal sides! So if you want to be entertained just remember to take your own hymnal, don't turn your back on the curtain cord, and whatever happpens don't drink the wine!
Jen Pawsey (DI Reviewer), 28/02/07
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