The Game’s Afoot (Cheriton Players)
Cheriton Village Hall
November 15-18 2017
It seemed so appropriate for Love Theatre Day to spend it in the lively company of Cheriton Players cheered enthusiastically by a supportive audience: local people putting on great entertainment at a sell out venue for local people.
And great entertainment it is too, in a bonkers kind of way: as with all things Holmes, some kind of belief needs to be suspended and from the opening to the denouement, this hard working cast and crew kept the action flowing, allowing full vent to the twists and turns of this “who-dunnit” written by Ken Ludwig. Not that I will spoil “the plot” for you, there are many red herrings along the way.
It is December 1936 and star William Gillette, admired the world over for his leading role in the play Sherlock Holmes, has invited his fellow cast-members to his Henley on Thames mansion for a Christmas Party following an abortive attempt on his own life on stage some 2 weeks earlier. But when one of the guests is later stabbed to death, the festivities in this isolated house of tricks and mirrors quickly turn dangerous. Then it’s up to Gillette himself, as he assumes the persona of his beloved Holmes, to track down the killer before the next victim appears, or do they?
Helena Gomm has created an excellent medium for this talented cast as they pull out all the stops in this outrageous piece of story-telling. Pace is quick fire as it should be and laughs are a plenty as each scene brings more revelations and death. The opening of Act 2 is particularly well done and the ‘victim’ is to be highly commended for ‘their’ role being mercilessly dragged around the stage and pushed in and out of cupboards etc. Always a joy to see the use of this tiny stage being used so expertly in set design, sound and lighting. The lamps were particularly authentic and there was the usual attention to detail throughout, be it music, costume jewellery etc.
The performances were particularly well suited to the cast, each bringing a sense of fun and panache to the writing. Richard Perkins as Gillette, razor sharp in his line delivery and stage presence, was matched by the flamboyant and majestic Fiona Mackay’s arch theatre critic Daria Chase. Pauline Cornter was suitably dotty as his mother, whilst Katie Hinds also donned a deer stalker as a steely Inspector Goring. Claire Smith and Craig Robb were admirable as the newly-wedded couple, both with secrets to hide. David Cradduck and Marilyn Weston, always good on stage, similarly secretive brought much hilarity to their roles especially as she regularly slapped him throughout the course of the evening.
That they all get on so well is plain to see, especially when all the cast were on stage together and all clearly enjoying themselves immensely.
That is what theatre is all about really – and local theatre does not get much better than this.