Monday, 27 April 2009

Agatha Christie's Spider's Web Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne

Agatha Christie's
Spider's Web
Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne

27th April- 2nd May 2009
Performance seen
Monday, April 27th

Agatha Christie's Spider's Web starring Denis Lill, Melanie Gutteridge, Cathy Shipton, Ben Nealon, Bruce Montague

Inspector Lord - Denis Lill
Clarissa Hailsham-Brown - Melanie Gutteridge
Mildred Peake - Catherine Shipton
Jeremy Warrender - Ben Nealon
Sir Rowland Delahaye - Bruce Montague
Hugo Birch - Michael Gabe
Pippa Hailsham-Brown - Karen Elliott
Elgin - Mark Rose
Henry Hailsham-Brown - Lucas Hare
Oliver Costello - Matthew Hebden
Constable Jones - Paul Murphy

A note inside theatre programmes indicated that due to the indisposition of Mark Wynter, who was due to play Hugo Birch, there would be a little shuffling around of the cast enabling Company Stage Manager, Paul Murphy, to take the minor (but still important) role of Constable Jones.

Karen Elliot stars as Pippa Hailsham-Brown in Spider's WebA change in cast did not mean change in performance quality though and this is an Agatha Christie thriller with a difference. It is very, very funny.

Most murder mysteries have small elements of humour dotted here and there. Spider's Web was however written by Christie to be humorous throughout.

I had the opportunity to have quite a chat with Ben Nealon after the show and it was quite interesting to learn that although so much humour is in this show many theatre goers seem to feel a little guilty laughing too often at a story involving a murder.

Even at Eastbourne I was aware of this. On occasions I would laugh at a scene only to be joined by a couple of others from a respectably sized first night audience.

You will notice many star names amongst the cast. Cathy Shipton (probably best known as Duffy in Casualty), Denis Lill (ITV's The Royal), Melanie Gutteridge (PC Emma Keane, The Bill), Ben Nealon (Soldier Soldier), Bruce Montague (Butterflies).

Melanie Gutteridge star of Spider's WebHowever everyone in this excellent production is a star delivering excellent performances including young Karen Elliott. She only graduated in 2008 and Spider's Web represents her first tour production as a professional actress.

The lovely Cathy Shipton's character is about as far from her Casualty role as Duffy as it could possibly get. Mildred Peake, as the name might imply, is very eccentric and quite snooty. Cathy's make up as the hilarious Ms Peake is so good that if you didn't have a programme you'd have quite a task figuring out who is beneath the make up.

I hate picking out a star performer when all the cast is excellent but I feel tonight's award had to go to Melanie Gutteridge. She is so impressive as the very hyperactive, somewhat dizzy, hilarious Clarissa Hailsham-Brown that she does become a bit of a show stealer.

I love stage murder mysteries but the fact that Agatha Christie made this one funny does make it somewhat unique and it seemed, like us, the rest of the audience thoroughly enjoyed it.

There's no point in covering the plot as it would spoil the show for anybody who hasn't seen it and it follows the lines of most murder mysteries. Early on there's a murder, there's quite a few possible suspects and you are left guessing "whodunnit" until the very end.

The difference here is that you'll be laughing until this finale.
Cathy Shipton stars in Spider's Web
5 out of 5 for Spider's Web 2009 tour

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