REVIEW: Murder at Checkmate Manor, Sheringham Little Theatre

An affectionately self-mocking look at the world of amateur dramatics unfolds, among dodgy scenery, mis-timed special effects and forgotten lines, in this play within a play.

The Cromer and Sheringham Operatic and Dramatic Society become the Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society to present a murder mystery...with a difference.

It explores the worst of am drams, with bumbling actors, cockeyed scenery, phones ringing after they have been answered, using the best of am drams - a strong five-handed cast and slick direction from Chrissie Robertson.

It is the stage equivalent of Les Dawson's piano playing - requiring a level of ability to do it well to comic effect.

The sub-plots include the catty rivalry between TG chairman Mrs Reece (Janet Hignett), who grabs the best parts, dresses and death scenes and glamourous Miss Farndale Thelma (Selina White) whose muttered snarls turn into smiles for the audience when the spotlight falls back on them.

The cast excels in playing more than a dozen roles badly, involving chaotic plot twists and hasty costume changes, and an added veneer of cleverly mixed up lines.

Nona Gray is superb as Audrey, whose characters include alternates between the imperious Lady Doreen and a dotty archeologist, while Laura Williamson switches between the butler and a colonel, with Martin Howard as the sole man playing Inspector O'Reilly,

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The TG script joyously throws in full recipes and make up tips, along with a fashion show, interval quiz and a song and dance routine, which inevitably goes wrong.

Being able to laugh at yourself is to be applauded. Doing it and getting to people to laugh along with you is even more praiseworthy. This play did just that and got hearty applause as its just desserts - the recipe for which is.....

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