Saddleworth Players

Review – Out of Sight, Out of Murder

If murder mysteries are a genre of their own Fred Carmichael’s play is one of the stranger examples of the form. It has everything that a thriller should have – a sinister, isolated mansion, dramatic flashes of thunder and lightning and a cast of dodgy characters, any one of whom could be the killer. What makes this play different is that said character, mostly pillaged from the pages of Agatha Christie, turn out to have strong opinions about their allotted roles. Some revel in their villainy, some bitch about being landed yet again with the same dismal prospect of being murdered before the interval: all of them invade the author’s mind and complain that he has no idea what happens next.

This state of affairs is at first disconcerting, but as the play goes on the audience gradually cotton on and form their own theories. Who has the mean and the motive? Whose charming exterior conceals the black heart of the Killer? And when will the Unexpected Guest arrive? Verity Mann’s production tackles these questions with confident aplomb. The design manages both to resemble every mysterious stage setting ever created and to have murky possibilities of its own. The dramatic lighting and sound effects materialise at exactly the right moment (easier said than done) and the cast move comfortable between being inscrutable and self-revealing. The murderer, needless to say, makes one fatal slip.

As always, the actors of the Saddleworth Players are more than capable of carrying off their parts. Martin Taylor does well as the gawky, harassed thriller-writer who feels his plot slipping out of control. Siobhan Ebden is convincing as the down to earth housekeeper who is utterly unaware of the unlikely goings-on which are suspended every time she walks on to the stage. Between them they sustain two entirely different American accents which stand out well against the upper class English cads and flibberty-gibbets.

Alayne Whitworth and Emma Sykes contrast well as the cynical, seen-it-all-vamp and the impossibly kind and innocent ingenue. Dick Stanton, as the juvenile lead, is relentlessly cheerful and hearty until circumstances make that difficult to maintain, and Ian Crickett and Colin Watt invite suspicion every time they open their mouths. Emily Skeldon draws the short straw as the put-upon maid whom everyone takes advantage of and Margaret Thompson (a Miss Marple wannabe?) finds fault with everyone.

There are no weak links in the cast and just as much credit goes to the production team who provide the bangs, crashes and sudden black-outs which keep us in suspense to the end of this unlikely saga. And there is even a happy, romantic ending!

'Out of Sight, Out of Murder' runs until Saturday 6th October at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking site.

John Rigby, Oct 1, 2018