Compton: a man dead, his wife shot him: a homage to Agatha Christie
Compton Players: Evil Will Come, at Compton Village Hall, from Thursday, November 18, to Saturday, November 20. Review by DEREK ANSELL
It has been a long period of enforced inactivity for Compton Players, along with amateur and professional theatres everywhere. Lockdowns and social distancing meant members couldn’t even meet up and congregate, never mind tread the boards. Director Helen Saxton expresses her pleasure at being back in the programme notes to this, their first production in front of a live audience in two years.
Mind you, I’m not suggesting anyone ever performed plays in front of a dead audience, but there were such things as Zoom presentations and Compton Players did have an online show called The Covid Inspector. This though, was their first at their usual venue, Compton Village Hall, and the play was a one-act crime drama set in the 1940s.
The nostalgia for the more gentle and inoffensive recent past was enhanced by comparison of this play with work by Agatha Christie in the programme notes. And again by the cover design of the programme which looked like a reproduction of a 40s Penguin paperback.
This 45-minute one-act play by Alexi Stonehouse was performed in the round, with the courtroom at the Old Bailey placed on stage and the living room laid out in the middle of the hall with audience members watching from three sides.
Helen Saxton, in addition to directing duties, played Catherine with good control and natural movement across stage and Pete Watt was quietly effective as her treacherous husband. Paul Shave was slow and deliberate in an accurate portrayal of a barrister and Eric Saxton gave depth and gravitas as Mr Justice Wargrave. George Buckland played a policeman giving evidence and there was a short cameo performance by Liz Saxton as the cleaner Mrs Lena Croft. Ella Wilson played Catherine in court, a short part although she was sitting silently on stage all through.
It was, as is usual with Compton Players, a smooth, well-paced production with a sting in the tail.
We were warned in the programme that there would be two shots during the action, fired from a starter pistol using blank caps. Very loud they were too and enough to make a few audience members jump out their seats.