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posted/updated: 24 Nov 2018 - edit review / upload photos
Audience with Murder
Colin Wakefield & Roger Leach
society/company: Banbury Cross Players (directory)
performance date: 21 Nov 2018
venue: The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Pk Road, Banbury, OX16 5QE
reviewer/s: Alex Wood (Sardines review)

As the poster for the play cleverly suggests, this entertaining piece has a close likeness to a Russian doll. Hardly surprising then that director Terry Gallager had to read the play 3 times before he 'got it'.

It is something of a relief that to avoid publishing a 'spoiler' I do not have to give a synopsis of the play as to do so would endanger my sanity. Put very simply, having started with a playreading at the house of the author and her husband, the end of the first act sees two of the cast carried from the stage, apparently dead. The only thought I had in mind at the time was 'With those two gone we are left with a two-hander for the rest of the show.' Acceptable (I cut my theatre teeth on a smashing two-hander called Staircase) but rather a waste of good actors.

How wrong I was.

Writers Colin Wakefield and Roger Leach have come up with an intelligent and entertaining play within a play within a play - possibly within another play. I haven't worked that out yet.

As always at Banbury Cross Players the acting is of a high standard. A great deal is asked from the actors in this play as every one of the cast takes on a number of what might most accurately be  described as different personas. All four cast members accept this challenge with great confidence and ability, without exception giving excellent performances .

In the first act Tara Lacey gets the character of amateur playwright Sue just right, then shocks us all with her transformation to diva actress Vivienne in Act Two. Similarly, Philip Fine is disturbingly good as her husband,the bullying Alan, but later also totally believable as fading and effete theatre director, Vernon.

Menace is provided in spades by Theo Cumming, appearing in the first half of the show as self-effacing and polite young amateur actor Dean, who kindly turns up at Sue's to help with the reading - totally contrasting with the character he presents us with in the second half. A different sort of menace is present in the 'characters' played by Kate Groves, who we first meet as the scheming Kelly.... a characteristic which she carries over into the 'roles' she plays in the second act.

The high quality of this production is in no small part also due to a team of talented backstage workers. As usual, the set - within the parameters in which the company have to work - is well-built and appropriate. Good sound effects and lighting are essential to this show -congratuations to Zac Lacey-Rousou and John Hicks for getting these so right. And Lily Blundell's incidental music really sets the scene.

I have to admit that I am still puzzling over some aspects of Audience with Murder, feeling somewhere between intrigued and bamboozled! That said, the play made for an entertaining and interesting evening in the hands of this very talented company.





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