Wanted one body

Review of “Wanted one body”

reprinted from Dorchester News  July 2003

Comic timing, that most difficult of stage crafts to master, was brought to a fine art by an excellent cast in DADS latest production WANTED ONE BODY.

This little known play, one of nine written by Charles Dyer  before ‘Rattle of a Simple Man’ made his name, hardly rates a mention in the reference books; but in the deft hands of director Geoff Russell and his team of accomplished performers we were treated to a little gem of a piece.

The time is 1921; the place is the dismal gothic abode of the recently departed Charles Barraclough; and the characters are assembled in the thick of a storm for

the funeral and the reading of the will of the deceased.

Gathered there are his stepdaughter Miss Faith Barraclough, Mabel the maid,

Agnes the cook, Anne Beale the secretary, Ted Johnson the chauffeur and two hapless solicitors Mr. Blundell and Mr. Mickleby.

When the will is read, we learn that the bulk of his fortune has been split between the

servants, much to the fury of Miss Faith (played by Elaine Healey).  She nastily snarls her intention to contest the will but is soon finding fault with bitter-tasting tea and after proclaiming that she has been poisoned lies spread-eagled on the sofa.  She is replaced as the villainess of the piece by the arrival of her even nastier sister Miss Hope (Connie Macdonald) who quickly shows she means to hang on to ‘her’ fortune. She sneeringly sets about trying to force the domestics to resign, by blackmail and other browbeating, and thereby forfeit their legacies.

Rosemary Mills was excellent as the maid who starts off quaking in her shoes insistent that the eyes of the dead are watching her but on learning that she can’t be dismissed takes to the ‘upstairs’ life, even tipping the younger solicitor a shilling. Julia Roitt was totally convincing in a difficult role as the blackmailed secretary, as was Michael Dacre cast as her fiancee the sometimes threatening chauffeur. Sue Kitson once again displayed her mastery of domestic characterisation as a cook increasingly worried by events as the plot unfolds.

But it was the two main characters, the solicitors, Messrs. Blundell and Mickleby played by Alistair Macdonald and Mark Williams who really stole the show.  With a consistent and at times brilliant display of timing, their seemingly effortless but restrained slapstick routines and use of stage props had the audience in fits of laughter.

As communication with the outside world is cut off, bodies disappear and return to town becomes impossible, the pair assume the role of detectives to investigate the deaths.

The intriguingly convoluted plot includes the intervention of the eccentric Dr. Brown superbly played by Michael Herbert and the undertaker Mr. Sorell played in a suitably vampiresque fashion by the first-rate Terry Chipperfield.

With a secret panel to assist the twists and turns of the plot and excellent atmospheric lighting and sound effects  combined with a very effective set, the success of the production was sealed.

Once again, DADS are to be congratulated. On a very warm June evening an audience was kept totally enthralled and constantly amused.

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