Two Treats and a Trifle, Salisbury Studio Theatre

AUDIENCES at Salisbury’s Studio Theatre in Ashley Road had a triple treat this May, when three of the company’s short plays were performed together.

The show started with a return of the 2023 production of John Finnemore’s English for Pony Lovers, which was pipped to the post at the Western Area final of the All England Theatre Festival – a decision which most watchers considered to be daylight robbery. It started its journey at the annual Totton Festival of Drama, in which this year’s entry was Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, adapted by director Lesley Bates from a story by Baroness Orczy. This closed the evening.

Between these two shows was a delightful confection, heretofore known only to generations of Broadchalke residents. Called Violetta, it’s a wonderful operatic skit, in which the words of the arias are spoken rather than sung, highlighting how repeated phrases, and the words that tear and strain to rhyme (thanks to Paul Simon’s Kathy’s Song) sound quite ridiculous as spoken words.

The wonderful English for Pony Lovers (see review at is set in a bar in a small German town where a German senior science teacher meets a young Englishwoman for a lesson in modern English jargon. Elke (Rachel Fletcher) is rigorous and disciplined, prepared to pay for qualified teacher Lorna (Aine Tiernan) to introduce her to the argot of the internet. Lorna, who claims ten extra years on her 18 year old dropout gap year student, knows absolutely nothing about English grammar. Elke quickly notices that all is not as she expected.

Violetta, adapted by Jackie Pilkington, is performed by members of The Awfully Earnest Opera Society, who include Pam and Keith Edmund, Peter Mitchell and Jackie Pilkington. Splendidly costumed, choreographed within an inch of their lives, and embodying the traditions of the “park and bark” days of Grand Opera, they were a joy to behold.

Lesley Bates is not only a very able playwright but a director whose intimate grasp of detail has impressed both adjudicators and audiences for many years. Here she takes the Hungarian baroness’s tale of the women of Scotland Yard and their determined efforts at career advancement and creates a whodunit of hilarious and memorable dimensions. Once again Rachel Fletcher steps into the limelight as Lady Molly Robson-Kirk, an early fictional female detective and a legend at The Yard, despatched to Ninescore to find out who killed the flighty sister and let her decompose in the village pond. With Joanna Daniel as the faithful Mary, Paul Chalmers as the redoubtable Bert and a host of female junior detectives playing all the other roles, it’s a classic tale of wicked aristocrats, loveable yokels, pedantic vicars and energetic heroines.

Another terrific evening at Studio Theatre, where the next show is One Man Two Guv’nors, on from 5th to 13th July.


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