The Farndale Avenue Murder Mystery

Gresham's School Auden Theatre, Holt

A farce carved out of a failure, this week's Bridge Theatre production is a comic feast in the best tradition of British self-ridicule.

Doorways in odd places, a blazing fire hanging from the ceiling, dodgy lights and a sound system with a mind of its own – the scene is set for the gloriously incompetent Farndale Ladies' (and one man's) latest bungled attempt at amateur dramatics: 'Murder at Checkmate Manor'.

Lines half-remembered, mis-remembered, often not remembered at all; walking, talking corpses, collapsing scenery and disappearing props; muddled cues and mixed-up scenes – anything and everything you could possibly think of that can go wrong, does.

Along the way, there are many exquisite comic gems, as when murder victim has to prompt her murderer and when different roles (all actors play several characters) become hopelessly confused and intertwined.


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Five members of the Bridge Theatre Company, as the Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society, take on 15 parts in the murder mystery, as well as performing interval entertainment (a very funny fashion show) and acting as pre-show usherettes. Elizabeth Williams displays great exuberance and stamina as queen of ceremonies, while my favourite was Jan Poynton, who plays the plodder to perfection.

Susan Earnshaw, Judi Daykin and Christopher Irvin (who also directs) rarely miss a comic beat in being hilariously inept.

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t It runs until Saturday August 7.

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