Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

Crimes Against Christmas
by Feargus Woods Dunlop   directed by Colin Lawrence

The Playroom, Cambridge January 2019

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Crimes Against Christmas

Presented by Bawds at The Corpus Playroom
8th to 12th January 2019
Reviewed by Nick Warburton

Crimes Against Christmas by Feargus Woods Dunlop is an Agatha Christie spoof which needs pace and precision from a cast capable of taking on a number of different roles. Every one of them must go over the top whilst remaining just this side of indulgent. And this is exactly what Bawds gave us in Colin Lawrence’s joyful production at the Corpus Playroom. When the actors took well-earned bows at the end of the evening, it came as something of a surprise to see that there were only six of them.

The plot is too silly to detain anyone for long. (In fact, the only slight dip in the evening came when some of the characters tried to explain exactly what was going on.) To put it briefly, everyone is stuck on a rich maniac’s island for Christmas as, one by one, they’re bumped off in bizarre ways. The real pleasures of the evening were the crisp direction, the bright characterisations and a script that tackled the ludicrous story with a satisfying relish for language. One of my favourite bits was an impressively speedy exchange of tongue-twisters. Why were they speaking in tongue-twisters? Who cares? I’m just glad they did.

The whole thing was held together by Tim Drummond as art expert Peter Artridge. The last time I saw Tim he was a brilliant Orson Welles; this time he was more Cary Grant, suave, assured and with the ability to get the audience on his side. The other five played a variety of roles – too many to mention – and every one of them hit the mark: Barry Brown as a sardonic butler and a splendidly splenetic Lord of the Manor, Andy Dunne and Kathryn Dillon as a hopeless street poet and his much sharper sidekick, Mandi Cattell as a dangerous and icy foreigner and the fruity Lady McMickle, and David Foyle as a brash American and the batty Lord McMickle. It will take a long time to get the image of Foyle’s goofy dimwit Lord out of my head – disturbing and very funny. They were all enjoying themselves so we did too.

Of course, all this controlled mayhem would have been impossible without a first-class backstage team. A clever design from Barry Brown, set the whole thing against a giant Cluedo board. The lighting and sound were spot on and Mike Milne’s folksy Christmas music drew us neatly into the play’s unhinged world. And special mention must be made of costume (Cathy McCluskey). Not only were they precise and characterful but the swift changes needed to keep everything moving looked as if they were effortlessly achieved.

Thank you Bawds: Crimes Against Christmas was just what was needed in a dull and bleak January.