Over My Dead Body
Derek Benfield
26 - 28 Oct 2016
John Chilvers

For their autumn production, Jubilee Players selected Derek Benfield’s light comedy, Over my Dead Body. Those with long memories may recall the writer as playing the character Walter Greenhalgh in Coronation Street in the 1960s but in his later life - he died in 2009 – he gained considerable success as a playwright and Over my Dead Body has become popular with both drama groups and audiences.

It’s easy to see why. For performers, there are six meaty roles which must be fun to play while, as an evening’s entertainment, the sharp dialogue and steadily developing plot provide the audience with both humour and intrigue. There are points where there is a slowing up of the incisive one-liners, which mark the opening section of the play but, by this time, the attention of the audience is absorbed in trying to make sense of the ‘guilty secret’ which underpins the story.

The central character – Gerald – hopes to spend the rest of his days alone with his memories following his wife's recent death but he reckons without her ‘forward planning’, which results in a series of unexpected arrivals of friends and relations to offer their unwelcome support.

All six members of the cast revelled in their roles. Neil Philips excelled as Gerald: perplexed, irritated but far too well-mannered to firmly tell his guests to leave. He tries but fails, most spectacularly when faced by his battle-axe sister-in-law, who brushes off the fact that she missed her sister’s funeral as she ‘got the date wrong’ but railroads Gerald into meekly accepting her intention to move in. This part was performed with aplomb by Cynthia Gosling in a She Who Must Be Obeyed style; few roles - other, perhaps, than Lady Bracknell – would be better suited to her considerable talents.

The four supporting roles effectively complemented the two main characters in fine performances: by: Rosalind Chamberlain as Gerald’s well-meaning daughter; Neil Sumser-Lupson as her inquisitive, but not particularly bright, husband; Sue Phillips as the perky old friend; Alice Skippings as the attractive young cleaning lady with designs on easing Gerald’s twilight years.

This was Paul Skippings’ first venture into the direction of a full-length play; he is to be congratulated. His experienced cast maintained a good pace throughout while still allowing the audience to enjoy the chuckle moments in another very entertaining evening at the Tithe Barn.