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Actor in "Busman’s Honeymoon" Theatre Production

In the week of April 2024 I took part in the Theatre Production of "Busman's Honeymoon" by Dorothy L Sayers & Muriel St Clare Byrne and directed by Sean Baker in the ADC Theatre, Cambridge.

Review by Julie Petrucci - Editor of Combinations

I maybe should not be putting this in print but, not ever having been a great fan of the famous Dorothy L Sayers, I am pretty unfamiliar with her work although I am aware of her successful amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey and his exploits.

In this play Lord Peter Wimsey and Lady Harriet (formerly Harriet Vane the detective novelist ), newly married, have bought a delightful farmhouse, with odd furnishings and an interesting assortment of village characters. The previous owner a Mr Noakes has been mysteriously absent for some days, and has failed to tell his niece of the sale of the house to Lord Wimsey.  Halfway through Act 1 we eventually discover the said gentleman is lying dead in the cellar. Although having agreed to give up sleuthing Peter and Harriet cannot escape the inevitable effort to solve the mystery - and they do.

The setting depicting Talboys, the newly purchased country cottage, complete with beams, small cottage window and the required ‘odd’ furnishings looked good although some of the set dressing pictures, plant pots etc. were slightly lost as they were rather small.  I was unconvinced by the somewhat modern battery operated clock which was several times referred to as an eight-day clock which Crutchley ‘wound’.  Lighting did all it needed to do but it would have been nice if the oil lamps had been bigger which would have given opportunity for a bit more variation and ambiance to the lighting plot.  Sound effects worked well and the clearing of the chimney created quite a spectacle. Costumes in the main seemed to be in period but I was fazed by Miss Twitterton’s black tights.  I am not sure such things were generally worn in those days.

The play has a large cast and once or twice when half-a dozen or so people were on stage there were masking problems possibly due to the positioning of some of the furniture.  Director Sean Baker put together a strong cast all of whom had paid attention to their characterisation resulting in well paced and nicely delivered dialogue - and there was a lot of it.

Most of Act 1 is taken up with more or less everyone who knows Noakes appearing to have a good reason to dislike him. Thus when Noakes’ body is eventually discovered the shadow of guilt doesn’t have far to fall to find someone with a motive.  However,  there are several little clues scattered through Act 1 so a sharp eyed watcher could, possibly, begin putting things together.  But who dunnit and how?

Was it the multi-pullover-ed chimneysweep Mr. Puffett (nicely played by Scott Brindle), or Andy Dunne in a strong performance as the gardener Crutchley? It could have been the loose-tongued Housekeeper Mrs Ruddle (played by Mandi Cattell in a beautifully well-timed comedic performance) or perhaps the Rev. Goodacre played by an on-form Barry Brown.  However, even Ian James, believable as Superintendent Kirk, was willing to suspect it was his somewhat dim PC Joe Sellon (well played by Fergus Powell). James Inman doubled up as solicitor Mr Macbride and a light-fingered removal man (Bill) in conjunction with Ben Magnus as George.  Excellent support from this team.  On the ‘minor principal’ front Simona Morecroft gave a fine performance as Miss Agnes Twitterton, Noakes’ niece, who is enamoured with the younger-than-her Crutchley.  An excellent performance came from Peter Dodds as Lord Peter’s man Bunter, maintaining a super Jeeves-like demeanour until his somewhat explosive reaction to Mrs Ruddle’s devastation of His Lordship’s port. 

Reigning supreme in all this we have, of course, Lord Peter and Lady Harriet played by Jon Bolderson and Izzy Rees.  This was a great pairing. Individually they are fine actors and they created a believable empathy both as newly-weds and as amateur sleuths. As the play progressed and they put things together everyone wanted to know how was Noakes murdered and who did it.  Well I know who did it but no spoilers here! How it was done was quite ingenious and the reconstruction worked brilliantly bringing gasps of surprise from the audience.

Thanks Bawds, Director Sean Baker and his cast and production team for a very intriguing evening of theatre.

Some feedback from the audience

'I was really impressed by the cast of Busman's Honeymoon. Having spent ten years in professional theatre, I often find myself wincing at the weaker members of a semi-professional cast. I can honestly say that even in spite of a couple of the completely expected opening night 'oh lord, we've only had one stab at this in situ' moments, the cast were truly remarkable. Several characters were so entirely believable that I even found myself forgetting they were actors. The chemistry between the leading Lord and Lady is also just perfect! I completely bought into their newly wedded happiness and the lovely banter between the two. I would genuinely go back again and watch another night I enjoyed it so much!'

'The show was gripping from start to finish.'

'The opening scene sparked interest with the contrasting characters setting the story up in an entertaining way.'

'As each character was introduced, it was clear that they had been cast expertly and had refined their roles with enthusiasm, individuality, and free rein.'

'The story is brilliant and whilst I had an inkling of the murder weapon, I was kept guessing as to how and by whom all along.'

'Walking away wanting to go back immediately for episode two is always a good indication of the quality.’

'The breadth of humour, quirkiness and painful emotion was very well thought through and acted out.'

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