Review: Murdered to Death, Belper Players

Belper Players are filling their 80th year with a wide variety of productions that includes new  plays by local writers as well as established favourites. The first production comes into the established category and it’s a great way to start a birthday party.

Murdered To Death – the title says it all even before we meet the aptly named Inspector Pratt ( a Home Counties Clousseau )  and the amateur sleuth that is Miss Maple. With shoals of red herrings and a Cluedo collection of whodunnit suspects, Peter Gordon’s spoof on Agatha Christie has one thing wrong with it…. the evening has to end.

In the drawing room of a remote country mansion during the 1930s, we meet a variety of characters including the obligatory butler with a liking for sherry, a high society debutante, a dodgy French art dealer and a Colonel who has the stiffest of stiff upper lips despite consuming copious amounts of alcohol. The big question is will the inept and bungling Pratt unmask the murderer before everyone else meets their doom?

Director Sara Noble-Nesbitt has surrounded herself with an excellent cast. Murdered To Death is an ensemble piece and I’d rather praise the whole rather than individuals. Ann Taylor, Sophie Mander, Wayne Parkin, Roger Whiting, Judy and Morgan Richter, Joey Riley, Sheila Kay Sly, Rob Chambers and Nick Mothershaw give us a two-hour, very British giggleathon.

The jokes come thick and fast and, yes, some are very old and others could have come from Christmas crackers but they are part of the charm of this spoof. Miss Maple’s revelation towards the end of the play is the biggest, in no small part due to Sheila Kay Sly’s delivery, of a number of laugh out loud moments.

Barry Brown’s excellent set is complemented by light and sound from Jamie Vella and Henry Pratt. Ann Taylor has selected costumes with her usual precision.

The first night audience was a virtual sell out and Friday is sold out.

Some tickets remain for Thursday and Saturday but move quickly to avoid disappointment.

You won’t regret being at the start of the Belper Players birthday celebrations.

Murdered To Death is performed at Strutt’s Community Centre, Derby Road, Belper.

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By George Gunby