Murdered to Death

Fri 1st – Sat 2nd November 2013

reviews

Elizabeth Crowdy

at 00:53 on 2nd Nov 2013

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Arriving at the scene of the GADS Agatha Christie spoof “Murdered to Death” was certainly atmospheric- the low lighting, carpets and antiquated books on shelves lining the walls created a setting worthy of any Poirot or Marple conundrum. The play reflected this image of Christie novel perfectly. The characters were suitably well spoken and fit for any English drawing room, with beautiful diction from Josie Teale in the character of Mildred. There was a certain degree of hesitancy at various points in the show, but this did not get in the way of the presentation of the characters and was perhaps a symptom of it being the first performance.

The whole play was unashamedly ridiculous. It was melodramatic and exaggerated, but did not take itself too seriously. Puns were used with subtlety, many of them almost slipping under the audience’s radar, helping to keep the attention focused on the linguistics of the play. The malapropisms of the "Inspector" were a particular highlight of this, and were well executed by Charlie Gatehouse. The dialogue did occasionally become slow, and I did find myself switching off on a couple of occasions in the second half. However, the play as a whole had a reasonable flow.

The characters ranged from the sarcastic and diligent Dorothy, played by Bella Nicholson, to the haughty and glamorous Elizabeth (Heather Jameson). The distinction between the characters was well emphasised by the director, and the tableau of all cast members seated in the lounge was visually successful. I particularly enjoyed the mysterious loitering of Pierre (Alex Thompson), although this perhaps gave away his underhand machinations too quickly. Ville Syrjanen also did an excellent job as the quietly witty, intelligent and put upon Thompkins.

The lighting was generally good, considering the difficulty of lighting such a confined space with efficacy. I was momentarily confused by some of the blackouts, and found it slightly unclear when the first half finished for the interval. However, the scene was well illuminated, and it was a good decision not to use too much technology in the production of the play, as I feel this would have detracted from the early 20th century atmosphere.

The character of Bunting (played by GADS president Jack Pulman-Slater) was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening. His undisputable honesty and raucous drunken manner made for a hysterical, if ineffective butler. The exuberant falling about the stage fitted well with the general "larger than life" atmosphere that was created. The high level of movement from the Inspector and Bunting also contrasted well with the minimal movements of the female characters who remained largely seated.

Overall, this play was an excellent amateur effort. There were a few line slips and general errors, but despite this, it maintained an atmosphere of fun which made for a most enjoyable evening. However, despite the admirable efforts of the actors, my favourite participant has to be the very determined butterfly which defied the cold and rain to find its way into Girton. Its enthusiastic fluttering around the stage and eventual settling on the shoulder of Colonel Haddock (Aaron Crossey) during the second half was a wonderful touch. An insect of impeccable style and comic timing.

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Catriona Aldrich-Green

at 10:02 on 2nd Nov 2013

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Sat in Girton college’s ornate, musty Stanley library amidst the gentle murmur of voices and the soft golden lighting one could really have been in a country house at the beginning of the last century. Till the play started. What began with two characters wrangling over spectacles culminated in a series of ever more dramatic fatalities -this was most definitely not Downton Abbey. And all the better for it.

Peter Gordon’s Murdered to Death is a slick, witty play and, although the slight degree of over-excitement palpable in the performers meant a few laughs were lost, GADS certainly did it full justice. There was drama, there was intrigue, there was a sense of suspense; not so much looming as hitting one over the head with a squeaky rubber hammer, and, well ham’s the word. Charlie Rogers’ Inspector Pratt deserves special commendation in this regard but really it was a whole cast effort with a panoply of accents, prat-falls and Shocked Facial Expressions worthy of any decent panto.

It was indeed an exhilarating rush through one liners at which the audience had barely time to smirk, though surrender jokes about the french garnered a huge roar of mirth (where ‘enormous iron erection’ a minute earlier failed to elicit even a titter) and the implication that ‘Miss Maple’ may be a lesbian only stunned silence. Though this perhaps says more about the audience than the performance. In short, if it's high drama that you’re after then don’t let the pretty library lure you into the long walk to Girton. If, however, you fancy a bit of a laugh then GADS' Murdered to Death is bang on the money. Think Gosford Park without the arrogance.

The staging was smooth (though the blackout more of a slight dimming during which the audience politely pretended to look at their feet), the costumes suitably historically inaccurate, the lighting beautiful and the whole thing pure, unadulterated farce. I arrived expecting the two hour performance to drag by, but in fact it flew. Not brilliant, nor perfect by any means, but then that's not what student drama’s all about. It was, as it should have been, jolly good fun.

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