‘The Murder Game’ is a thriller by Constance Cox. The play opens with Brian, played by Mark Hollidge in a suitably confused and conflicted state, a cheating husband whose wealthy wife has left him, arriving home by car and nearly hitting a stranger in his driveway. He brings the young man into his home and they both have a drink. Brian has the first of a worryingly continuous stream of whiskies (at least a bottle during the evening of the performance) but Gerry drinks only coke.
Gerry is looking for somewhere to sleep for the night and wants nothing more than to stay in the gazebo in the front garden. Brian’s estranged wife, Sheila, arrives and Gerry appears to leave by the back door (surprisingly he seems to know the way, despite never having been there before!). Sheila has come to tell Brian that she is filing for divorce but, when she leaves, it turns out that Gerry was listening.
From then on, the plot thickens, if somewhat unrealistically. Brian is drawn into an increasingly tightening web, which culminates in his realisation, too late, that Gerry has a plan which he had not foreseen.
Gerry was played with relish by Nick Abbott, in a convincingly pathological manner. Although Hilary Osman’s Sheila was only on stage for a short time, her presence was dramatic in a number of ways, including a forceful and confident delivery and her predilection for neat gin. Further explanation would reveal too much of the plot.
The mistress, June, was ably played by the ubiquitous Nicola Clift, remembered from previous recent productions. The interplay between June and Gerry was quite gripping at times, as Gerry’s nefarious plan rolled on.
The lines flowed well, with very few fluffs and little prompting. However one had to suspend belief with the unlikely plot. If this had been an episode of ‘Death in Paradise’, DI Humphrey Goodman would have solved the murder at the end, but there were no police on stage in this production!
It was an altogether enjoyable evening’s entertainment, particularly when the characters went ‘upstairs’ which involved only a few steps up but then the actors went down again to go offstage, which was reversed when they reappeared from upstairs!
The director, Robin Walker, is to be congratulated. Not only for this production but also for the arrival of his granddaughter, Eadie, last July, who is already showing dramatic promise. It is hoped that she will become the fourth generation of the Walker acting dynasty to tread the FDS boards, her great grandmother, Edna Walker (stage manager), being the first and her mother the third.
Margot Rohan (Orpington Community)
P.S. For the next production, perhaps it will be possible to include some photos from rehearsals - I'll be in touch?
This production was directed by Holly Seijo, a stalwart performer in previous productions. The play opens with Mr and the second Mrs Condomine, as they prepare to receive guests for dinner. The scene was lifted considerably by the entrance of Madame Arcati, a medium, played vibrantly by Sue Williams, with panache and humour. She burst onto the stage and took command of all areas, as she created the atmosphere for the first séance, which ended dramatically with Madame Arcati passed out and strange emanations, including an hysterical table, following contact with the 'other side'.
In the second scene, Elvira (Tania Todd) was another high spot. Her expressions were varied and lively, diverting one's attention from the other actors, even before she spoke. She managed to move around the stage whilst the others acted convincingly in being oblivious to her ethereal appearance. The pace picked up from Scene 3, the following morning, with only Charles Condomine (Mark Hollidge) able to see the ghost of his first wife, Elvira, and his poor second wife, Ruth (Nicola Clift) becoming more upset and angry as she misinterpreted what was going on.
After a sojourn at The Woodman, the humourous landlord encouraged imbibers to drink up and return to the Village Hall for the second half, warning them to be careful to avoid big red buses which like to knock down FDS theatregoers!
The diversions created in a 'Mrs Overall'* cameo by the maid, Edith (Wendy MacDonnell), in a role of few words, were also very funny.
The cast was also well supported by Robin Walker and Hilary Osman as Doctor and Mrs Bradman. This was another entertaining and enjoyable evening from the able Farnborough Dramatic Society players, although I must complain about the poor quality of the wallpapering in the Condomine's sitting room - I could not live with all those wrinkles!
Margot Rohan (Orpington Community)
(* Mrs Overall is a character in Acorn Antiques, played by Julie Walters)
This production had some very strong performances, particularly from Sue Williams as Rose, Wendy McDonnell as Mother and Tania Todd as Sally.
As Rose, Sue Williams commanded the stage on which she was never absent, only faltering in a couple of minor instances, which was impressive, bearing in mind the volume of the part she played. She was convincing, endearing, funny and moving in revealing her character's dilemmas and flaws. The most enjoyable and natural scenes were when Rose visited her friend Sally, a fast moving, lively and amusing interchange, and those with her mother, which revealed some of the generational misunderstandings we all encounter.
Another excellent scene was the 'meeting' between Rose and Jim Bean, the primary adviser (played by an appropriately reticent Mark Hollidge), where Sue showed her skill in becoming gradually more inebriated and effusive as Rose's nervousness was overtaken by her verbosity. A very funny but perceptively written encounter.
There were a few fluffed lines and pauses for a prompt here and there but these did not significantly detract from the general flow of the play. The story revealed the vagaries of life in general, the challenges in marriage and family issues and how everyone agonises over what has been and what might have been.
Rose was well supported by the rest of the cast, with Robin Walker playing her harassed, mid-life crisis husband, Geoffrey; Barbara Jones and Holly Seijo, her school colleagues; and Paul Minett as Sally's vague, hippy husband, Jake.
The play ended on a poignant note, leaving the audience wondering what decisions Rose was going to make about her marriage and her career.
Margot Rohan, Orpington Community
22 March 2014
Farnborough Dramatic Society was founded about 70 years ago. They are looking for new ways to promote their productions, as one of the comments forwarded by an audience member recently was that she had thoroughly enjoyed their last play (Searching For Doctor Branovic) and would have liked more of her friends to have been there too but they simply didn't know it was happening!
Their next play is the classic Victorian thriller 'Gaslight' by Patrick Hamilton which will be staged at the Farnborough Village Hall on May 15th-17th. This will be the FDS entry in The Bromley Theatre Guild's Full-Length Play Festival 2014 (about 8 or 9 local groups get involved).
Tickets are £7 - for information on booking, visit their website.