THREE (or was it four?) bodies have been found at Short Mere House, and it’s certain that not all their deaths were due to natural causes.
The question is, (or rather “the questions are”) who dunnit, whydidtheydoit and withwhatdidtheydoit? And the answers at this Mere Amateur Dramatic Society murder mystery supper must come from the audience, split into teams and urged to fuel their little grey cells with a repast served at the Lecture Hall.
Chris Wood’s hugely entertaining script is full of dreadful puns, cringingly accurate stabs at aristocratic mores, and red (or in this case, green) herrings.
It all centres round some new legislation about inheritance, chucking out the historic primogeniture provisions and those surrounding the legitimacy laws and opening the way for female heirs, bastard heirs and even non-binary heirs … it so could happen!
The elderly and pickled Duke of Frying – a bit of a dog in his youth – is taking breakfast with his lady wife, his spinster daughter (recently thwarted of her duchessly ambitions by the New Law), his wastrel son and his arrogant, lazy grandson. His solicitor (good grief, a WOMAN!) is about to arrive with his new will, and Bacon the Butler has some bad news from the doctor.
His Grace (perfectly played by Peter Landymore) is not long for this world, and so the family rallies round to make his final days as pleasant as possible, breaking out the vintage whisky, the best wine and the jewels from the safe.)
But hidden agenda are seething underfoot, and it’s anyone’s guess who wants what from whom.
Is it the knowing housekeeper Mrs Egg, a surprising beneficiary of the Duke’s will? The old buffer has saved her son Bacon before, and he might just do it again.
Then there is the accident-prone Roundup, the man who demolished the maze when he mistook the relevant machine for weeding.
Of course Charles and Penelope are after the title.
It’s all down to Inspector Petit-Dejeuner to work his way through the clues, ably assisted by PC Toast and Prof Crisp the pathologist. And then to the eager sleuths in the audience.
The cast featured Penny Allen, Juliet Booth, Allan and Matt Glide, Barbara Harris, Steve Harris, Rose Heesom, David Lamb, Lesley Love, Jon Noble and Chris Wood, and the whole evening was a delight, full of fun for everyone.
I hope Mr Wood will sell his play to many other societies across the country. It gives audience involvement a year-round potential, and the script is British to the core, fitting into any rural setting with hilarious ease.