Jack Popplewell
26 - 29 Jun 2018
John Chilvers

After an interval of 26 years since they last performed this entertaining comedy, Jubilee Players presented Jack Popplewell’s Busybody for their summer production. It was a great success.

Seeking to summarise the plot would be a fruitless exercise so suffice to say that it involves missing corpses (or was there only one?), marital disharmony, office intrigue, incompetent police officers and a deceptively ‘dim’ cleaning lady; all are fully exploited for comic effect.

The lead role – Mrs Piper, the office cleaner – holds the piece together and was quite superbly performed by Cynthia Gosling. Stepping away from her well-established roles as a lady of the aristocracy/gentry, she only needed to pull on her headscarf to be transformed into a ‘I’m several steps ahead of you, detective inspector’ Mrs Mopp.

That the detective inspector was a childhood acquaintance – a relationship that the upwardly-mobile officer would prefer to forget – gave added piquancy to the sparring between the two characters as the ‘professional’ and the busybody sought to unravel the mystery. Neil Phillips played the inspector with a splendid blend of bluster and bewilderment.

Supporting the two main characters was a strong cast. Paul Skippings was obliged to display contrasting personae depending on whether he was victim or perpetrator (or both? or neither?) and did so with conviction. Ray Tempesta, as the detective constable, successfully persuaded the audience that his IQ was even lower that of his inspector and seemed better suited to the pursuit of the office typist, played - very amusingly - to the extremities of flirtatiousness by Michelle Jay. Hannah Cunningham - whether posing as the grieving ‘widow’ or when unmasked as the adulterous wife – never lost her edge as a the unacceptable face of the bored middle-class spouse while Rosalind Chamberlin - thwarted in her romantic intentions – as the loyal PA to the victim/murderer gave as assured a performance as Neil Sumser-Lupson, the apparently ‘good guy’ accountant.

The dialogue was crisply delivered by all the characters with the asides – particularly those of the office cleaner – beautifully timed and reflected the careful preparation of the performers by joint directors Sue Phillips and Sue Furness. The production was further enhanced by a thoughtful set which convincingly reconstructed a 1950s office.

For a variety of reasons, Jubilee Players have been unable to perform to their normal schedule for the last 15 months but for their loyal audience this was a very well-received ‘Welcome Back’. No one who attended this production would hesitate to book dates in their diary when ‘Dial M for Murder’ comes to the Tithe Barn in October (24th, 25th and 26th). Next time, there may not be as many laughs but at least there will be less confusion over the corpse.