No mystery as to why Winton Players are so popular

REVIEW

Murder on the Nile (Winton Players)

Festival Hall, Petersfield

Saturday, October 14 2017

Audiences were transported to Egypt for this Agatha Christie whodunnit with a very impressive set designed by John Chapman; I loved the way the water rippled and the backdrops were beautiful. Sound effects were good too; water birds and music, and Imams calling the faithful to prayer. It set the scene nicely.

The trouble with this 1944 play is its rather cringeworthy portrayal of foreigners, particularly the hawkers at the start, peddling their wares and offering donkey rides. Cindy Graves and Brian Wheble did their best not to make these ‘Johnny foreigner’ caricatures but they couldn’t help the script. As the Egyptian steward, Mike Cox had an easier time of it and we felt great sympathy as fingers were clicked and “Boy! Boy!” shouted at him to attend guests and bring drinks. Accents across the board were a bit hit and miss, from French to German to Egyptian, which sometimes made the words a bit tricky to hear, but for the most part voices were clear and I didn’t miss much.

Of course, being a murder mystery, the play has a lot of words, as backgrounds are detailed and red herrings are planted. There were a couple of prompts and falters, but the majority of the play rattled along a a fair pace. Well done everyone for remembering all those lines!

It’s great fun trying to work out who the murderer is and there was a loud “ooh” from the audience at one point when an essential bit of information was revealed. I was convinced it was the oh-so-saintly Christina Grant, played by Emily Watts, then I started to wonder whether Canon Ambrose Pennefather, played by John Edwards in measured style (“from Shropshire… well a little bit west of Shropshire” was a nice touch – John is Welsh) had done the dirty deed.

Could it be the German Dr Bessner, played by newcomer to Wintons, Gabriel Hearst? Did Kay (played by young Lucy Davies) kill herself? Did the French maid Louise (Joanne Stephenson) shoot her mistress? Was the socialist Smith (Simon Stanley) not quite what he seemed…? Oh the chatter at the interval about motives and methods…

Several deaths later and it all came together neatly. The well-cast Ryan Watts as Simon Mostyn showed how much stagecraft he’s been learning over the past couple of years in local theatre – well done for a performance demonstrating a lot of hard work. Meanwhile Penny Young showed her stage experience as the ridiculously named and very pompous Miss ffoliot-ffoulkes, capturing the character well and giving the play some humour.

I particularly liked the performance by the striking Monika Jankowska as Jackie – with excellent poise and the cut-glass voice of that era. I look forward to seeing her in future productions.

Next up for Winton Players is the traditional panto, Dick Whittington, in January.

Kat Wootton