Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

 Reuniting for some deadly laughs

Reunion for Murder

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


ANGELA LANYON is an essential part of the Christmas calendar at the Swan. For the last eight years, she has written and directed a murder mystery for the studio, and patrons are invited to foregather and make a mental note of the clutter of clues that are scattered before them in the first half.  

During the interval, they are fortified by a very acceptable Christmas repast – with mince pies, cheese and biscuits to follow, all washed down with a glass of wine – and complete the obligatory slip of paper by writing down the names of the victim and the murderer, plus the motive, the method and the murder weapon. 

In the second half, while their detective prowess is being assessed, they watch the plot unwind and after the final bows they discover who has been the unsuspected Sherlock in their midst. The reward for a lady in the front row on the first night this year was a chocolate Scotty dog wrapped in gold tinfoil. It is all ever so cosy and extraordinarily civilised. 

The play, on the other hand, is anything but. The setting is the reunion of a group of people in a holiday bungalow that is threatening to fall off the edge of a cliff on the Norfolk coast. Twenty years ago, they had been students together – but now they are spitting invective as if there's no tomorrow. 


One of them is labelled a spiteful bitch. Another is described as being as irascible as ever. It is the bitch – Annabel, played by Helen Lammas – who unwaveringly catches the eye and the ear. She is a shopaholic airhead, utterly self-centred and hopeful of pushing a television career; talking in an unabated whine and utterly unaware of the spectacle she is making of herself – except that actress Helen does seem a little anxious about her dress with the big spots and the high-rise hemline. 

But this is the role that brings the laughs that lighten the plot. Deadly serious self-importance linked to a failure to understand any given situation. It is carried off very well, while the others in the party are united in dismay – never expressed more clearly or forcefully than by Suzie (Gina Hastings). 

It's fun, and the audience,  though engrossed, has no inhibitions about joining in.  One member of the first-night CID advanced the theory that the murderer was the off-stage dog we had heard from time to time. Well, you never know: it was worth a punt as part of what is a happy tradition. To 11-12-10.

John Slim

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