WHERE THERE'S A WILL
Blackmore Players in the Village Hall
Much more comedy than thrills in this amusing pot-boiler by panto veteran Norman Robbins. Tinned peaches to the fresh fruit of real plays, never aspiring to professional productions, these ready-to-wear pieces are unaccountably popular with amateur groups.
The Friday-night crowd were in a receptive mood, and laughed long and loud at the shenanigans on stage. As the title suggests, a fortune is at stake, the millions left by Edie Puddephat [check comedy monniker]. Long-lost family gather to claim their due, but a freak accident is the cue for some dark deeds, as the beneficiaries are bumped off one by one – road accidents, poisoning, ailurophobia and the neatest cardiac arrest ever. Mr Brian Harris has taken a helpful ad in the programme, offering help with wills and estates, and we could have used his assistance with the convoluted and improbable plot. Not a “Kind Hearts” tontine, this, so it is not clear how the deaths will enrich the survivors. The characters manfully recap from time to time - “As we all know, ...” but on the second night it got to the cast in the end – cue general corpsing, with the prompt [Vera Hitchin] put through her paces and collateral damage in the priceless “carrot page” Spoonerism. Or is that in the script ?
Heading the gallery of stereotypes is Barbara Harrold as Velma, an excellent Northern battle-axe - “If I want your opinion I'll give it to you” - with her meek son Fordyce [nicely characterized by James Hughes with sharp suit and side parting]. She alone has the accent to a tee – some of the more distant relations bring estuary tones to the wake. But plenty of entertainment to be had from Martin Herford's Peasegood [check comedy vicar], Charley Magee's gloriously tasteless Miriam [check comedy lush], and Glenys Young's Bella, with anklets the size of ASBO tags. Youngsters Adam Hughes [tattooed male stripper] and Rebecca Smith [his pierced girlfriend] look great, but need to be chavvier and chippier.
Co-director [with son Andrew] Linda Raymond successfully steps up to take the part of the enigmatic Genista Royal, housekeeper to the dear departed.
The solid set successfully evokes the house of the late Edie – much fun with the cats' pee – but there are dark patches in the downstage corners.
Not a period piece, but harks back to another age, when we talked about nancy boys and unmarried mothers, every suburban villa had its domestic help, and every village had lively, thriving amateur theatricals like the Blackmore Players.