PRACTICE TO DECEIVE
Little Waltham Drama Group
Even the humblest village eleven would baulk at soft balls and coloured plastic bails, a shorter pitch and smaller boundary. No professional player would dream of doing it. So why should the village amdrams struggle with third-rate potboilers like Practice to Deceive, the latest from the pen of panto veteran Norman Robbins.
Little Waltham give it their best shot - a lovely Yorkshire farmhouse, with the watercolour Moors outside the stable door.
It's a thriller. Women have been "lost" on Chellingford Moor; another body has just been found. Who could have dunnit ? Millie, brandishing her shotgun in the opening seconds, or slow-witted farmhand Gavin, flasher and mad axe-man ? Or one of the strangers in these parts: entomologist turned bag lady Rhoda, softly-spoken Adrian ["it's you, the psychopath!"] Brookes, with the cheap Ikea meat tenderizer, or even nosy writer Diana Wishart, snooping round for exclusive dirt on the murders.
The red herrings are served up with lashings of Yorkshire tea; the helpful title quotation from Scott no clue to the "tangled web" Norman weaves with "billion to one coincidences".
"Do you realise how ridiculous this sounds?" Brookes wonders. "It's a good job we're not in Agatha Christie Land!" [though one missing woman, like Mrs C., is run to earth in a hotel in Harrogate]. Not showing up for an AmDram Ayckbourn sets alarm bells ringing; Boris the offstage hound is a more believable character than several onstage.
But plenty of acting on show in Megs Simmonds' production – Gordon McSween creepily convincing as Brookes, Gerald Staines as a loyal hand, June Franzen chilling as the no-nonsense Mrs McBride, Martin Final as the perceptive detective, and the irrepressible Richard Butler, with his Yorkie cross accent.
The two researchers were nicely done by Susan Butler and Karen Allen, with Viv Abrey as Dr Bradstock.