Britt Ekland as Mrs Pleasant with Tracy Shaw as Annabelle. Picture: Paul Coltas

The Cat and the Canary

Lichfield Garrick


Like all good murder mystery plays, there is a requirement not to give away the ending and the The Cat and the Canary, by John Willard which first appeared on the Broadway stage way back in 1922, is no different.

It’s packed with all the familiar ingredients. Set on a stormy thunderous night, six possible descendants , the cousins of the late Mr West, are summoned by solicitor Roger Crosby to go West - to Wests once country manor, 20 years after his death, to hear and discover which of them will inherit the vast estate.

It’s a creepy place with secret passages, and doorways, decked with old trophies and odd paraphernalia and no, that’s not the cast. The manor has been lovingly cared for by the lady in grey, housekeeper Mrs Pleasant, who welcomes them all with a constant reminder of the evil that lurks within.

Mr West has selected his heir but cunningly recorded his last wishes. However, there’s a codicil to the will that should the recipient of the estate be found to be of unsound mind, then a second heir will be chosen. This fact creates some rivalry and the potential for wrongdoing amongst the distant cousins, those that West rejects, and things get very fishy with this full plateful of red herrings,  

Britt Ekland stars in this production but don’t expect the see the former Blonde Bond bombshell as you might remember her. Whilst she looks as glamourous as ever in the programme, she appears every bit her real age plus some and unrecognisable as the ageing housekeeper Mrs Pleasant.

`It’s the evil ‘ she says as she trots around answering the door and skilfully fetching things. The very experienced actor Eric Carte though, stands still long enough to plant a solid performance as the solicitor Roger Cosby and is one small part of this well-known and professional cast.

Corrie favourite Tracy Shaw vamped it up as the street wise glamourous niece, Annabelle West; Mark Jordan, the former heartbeat PC, was the comically arresting Vet Paul Jones, hamming it up in a very innocent schoolboy manner.

Former Minder actor and soap regular Gary Webster resurrected his cheeky Londoner accent and nicely looked after the role of Harry Blythe; one time Soldier Soldier, actor Ben Nealon, was Charlie Wilder an actor who plays an actor and was always ready to do combat with Harry for the love of Annabelle West.

Even though it was not Sunday, West End regular Marti Webb didn’t sing a note but was however in tune as dead Mr West’s former widow Susan Sillsby .Another Corrie actor Nikki Patel sparkled as Cicily Sillsby another potential heir, confirming the family tale of a long missing India jewel.  

Playing it all seemingly for laughs, director Roy Marsden has injected some serious filler into this old thriller but whilst entertaining, makes it just about as scary as a tea time episode of Scooby Doo. There are enormously loud sound effects to keep you awake and a well thought out set, plus very effective lighting and the bonus of a monster that looks suspiciously like Rod Stewart having a very bad hair day.

Overall though you cannot fault the quality of the acting and the united casts experience adds some much-needed solid foundation to support this creaky old manor house thriller. To 14-03-20

Jeff Grant


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