REVIEW: Masterful delivery of a stunning whodunnit

Cast members from Stage-Door Theatre Company all set for the group's 50th show
Cast members from Stage-Door Theatre Company all set for the group's 50th show

A MASTER class of comic timing was on display as talented thespians from the Stage-Door Theatre Company treated audiences in Littlehampton to some murder mystery mayhem.

Stage-Door’s latest production is Ian Hornby’s farce, Hello, Is There Anybody There? and it left crowds wheezing with laughter as the curtains closed on the penultimate show, on Friday.

Staged in the glorious Windmill Entertainment Centre, the tale was set in the lounge of the Squire Grange.

It followed the tale of snooty murder mystery novelist Lady Amelia as she attempted to come up with ‘the perfect crime – one which hasn’t been written before’.

In a bid to overcome writer’s block, she persuades those around her to come up with new ways to kill people, 
with everything from a poisoned tin of baked beans to hitting someone on the head with a golf ball at a golf course.

However, as the tale develops, an unknown assailant strikes, time and time again, killing members of the cast – who seemingly can’t seem to stay down.

Director Tony Makey should be delighted by his production which left audiences wanting, with the play often breaking ‘the fourth wall’ to great effect.

The actors made excellent use of the crowd, easily providing some of the show’s most memorable and riotous moments.

Lady Amelia – played by Anne Anderson – was fantastic, exerting a great stage presence throughout.

The banter between herself and Dave Griffin (who played Sir Malcolm) built to brilliant levels after a slightly stuttered start.

Once warmed up, both were in their element, dominating the stage and playing well with the crowd.

Chris Hathaway’s portrayal of Freddy Lyons was solid, with great characterisation, particularly when the visibly unconformable and embarrassed Freddy was badgered into coming up with his own murder plot by Anderson’s Lady Amelia.

There was a delicate comic touch by Smalls (played marvellously by Dave Humphrey) who provided some of the play’s best dead pan 

However, two of the show’s real stars were Fiona Humphrey (Mabel) and Jamie Griffiths (Vic Tim and DC Fickey).

Griffiths gave an accomplished and energetic performance which was one of the production’s strongest.

His comic timing was fantastic and his portrayal of blundering police officer DC ‘thickie’ Fickey was a joy to watch.

Likewise, Humphrey’s Mabel – a rough and ready maid – was fantastic.

Strong performances, albeit brief ones, were also on display from Emma Millard (as the raunchily dressed WPC Eve Nunnall) and Brenda Hargraves’s Miss Marbles, who often had a naughty glint in her eye.

The cast was easily at its strongest at the very end of the play, when everyone was on stage together for the ‘big reveal’ of the killer.

At points, the play did, however, lack pace with some of the dialogue being lost in translation.

However, the slight dips could not detract from what was, overall, an incredible display of local comedic talent – at times it was hard to believe this was an amateur production, the quality was that good.

The next show by Stage-Door is The Final Test, on July 22.

The Littlehampton Players Operatic Society is currently running its production of the Pirates of Penzance until tomorrow (Saturday, April 25).