Murder In Play
Simon Brett
15 - 17 Feb 2017
John Chilvers

A play within a play .....................and a murder in the play within the play. No, Jubilee Players did not treat their audience to a performance of Hamlet and, in a splendid evening’s entertainment, their latest production Murder in Play certainly provided rather more laughs than the inhabitants of Elsinore Castle.

To seek to describe the plot of this piece would require a review of a word length well beyond expected parameters, so to summarise: it is complex. As the characters move rapidly between their assumed identities and their ‘real’ selves and a murder becomes the central theme of both ‘plays’, the parallels between the ‘actors’ and the ‘Act-ors’ become increasingly evident. What matters? “The show must go on.”

And it does, at a rattling good pace which the director – of Jubilee Players, that is – Rosalind Chamberlin has demanded from her performers. The one character who is not required to slip in and out of role is the ‘director’ – the wonderfully named, Boris Smolensky – who is played with convincing assurance by Paul Skippings. He holds the play together while his lecherous intentions make a full contribution to the ‘play’ falling apart.

Seven faces of Luvviedom are amusingly represented by the other characters/Act-ors: Mr Papadopoulos (Neil Phillips) careworn, alcoholic and constantly anecdotally reminiscing about his time with Larry/Johnny/Edith; Lady Dorothy Cholmondley (Sue Furness) self-obsessed, scheming and, by the end of Act 1, dead; Major Rodney Purbright (Neil Sumser-Lupson) shell-shocked in character, lovelorn in ‘life’; Lady Virginia Cholmondeley (Michelle Jay) “it’s difficult for me to play a stupid character”  - cue: knowing looks from her fellow thespians: Mrs Puttock (Libby Henshaw) acidly protecting her embarrassing secret; Triggs (Hannah Cunningham) bemoaning her three years in drama school in order to man a drinks’ trolley but perkily assertive when the subject of Boris’s advances; stage manager Pat (Sue Phillips) put-upon in Act I and, even more irritable in Act II when pressed into service on stage.

With considerable skill, all performers breathed energy into their stock characters. The play is cleverly written but needs lively interpretation to sustain its momentum. A limp production would give the audience time to reflect on the absurdity of it all; in this production, the audience is carried along on a wave of absurdity. Quite understandably, actors always thoroughly enjoying playing Act-ors and the whole cast revelled in this opportunity.

Jubilee Players have built themselves a strong reputation for entertaining productions and their regular followers can look forward to future performances with the assurance that

The play's the thing,

Wherein we’ll fun to loyal audience bring

As ever, Jubilee Players live up to their promise.