At a time when live theatre is a rarity, it provided a real tonic of laughter both to a distanced group of staff and pupils and to a much wider audience on a live stream, something we hope to continue for future productions.
The production gets off to a pacey start thanks to Fifth Formers Ryan M and Sam U, who ably opened the show as two bickering theatre critics, Birdboot and Moon. As the critics take their seats in the theatre to watch a new Murder Mystery, the lights dim and the play-within-a-play begins. For Moon, reviewing this production is his big break, a chance to fill in for his paper’s number one critic Higgs, who has mysteriously gone missing. The single-minded Birdboot is more interested in starting a liaison with a beautiful young actress.
Will U makes a memorable entrance a Mrs Drudge, the cleaning lady who hoovers the drawing-room of Lady Muldoon's country residence while bopping to Queen’s ‘I want to Break free.’ His natural dramatic timing and comic scuttle were a highlight in an evening rich with laughter. The jokes came thick and fast as Stoppard’s clever pastiche of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap unfolds and the cast’s breezy handling of plot exposition piled on the dramatic irony.
Jos G made a very credible stage debut as the dashing Simon Gascoyne who mysteriously arrives across the clifftops just as the radio announces that a killer is on the loose. His debonair charm instantly draws the ladies close, something which will later come to haunt him.
Before Simon can make his assignation with the glamourous Lady Muldoon, he bumps into his former flame, Felicity Cunningham. Though expert mastery of the hair flick, Harvey I humorously portrayed the changeable Felicity’s combination of coquettishness and cattiness.
However, Felicity is no match for Lady Muldoon, winsomely played by Felix R as a husky femme fatale and glamourous Amazon in four inch heels.
When Simon is shot by an unknown assailant, suspicion falls on the whole household, including Lady Muldoon’s long-lost cousin, played by Third Former James B who impressed with his confidence and professionalism in his first performance at Shrewsbury.
By popular request, Guy G reprised his hit role of ‘Dead Body’, which wowed in the last Severn Hill play, treating the audience to numerous well-timed sight gags.
Also honing his craft was Jago A who made a successful return to his personal specialty playing police officers. His brisk Inspector Hound lent gravitas to proceedings and provided an excellent comic foil trying to bat aside the simpering Mrs Drudge’s advances.
Pulling no punches, the cast capably delivered the tonal shift when Stoppard’s modern classic takes an increasingly surreal turn as the action returns to the theatre critics watching the production and becomes a play-within-a-play-within-a-play.
Ryan convincingly captured the vanity of the irascible Birdboot, who marches on stage in a fit of temper to answer the phone. Sucked into the action, the play loops until the philandering Birdboot gets his comeuppance with a bang.
The striking monochrome set and costumes designed by director Mr. Percival comes into its own as Moon is left trying to solve the murder, write his review, and escape his own existential crisis in one fell swoop. Sam wowed with his adept handling of Stoppard’s verbiage, conveying the heartfelt anguish at the heart of the farce.
The production ended in a blaze of colour washing the Ashton stage, with the dependable Henry H and Will W operating the lights and sound. A fine dramatic baptism for our wonderful new space.
Here is the full play: