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“JAM, JERUSALEM AND MURDER”  Reviewed by:  Richard Lovelock

There are worse things you can do on a damp and cold November evening than have a night at a murder mystery; throw in a free supper and the temptation to leave your cosy fire place is complete.

St. Andrews should be applauded for taking on their second home-made show of the year, writer and director Keith Turton certainly managed to entertain and bemuse the evenings audience.

Set in 1958 amongst a Women’s Institute in the little village of Bramley we had fallings out, a rendition of Jerusalem and even a cake – so a kind of Calendar Girls only where the ladies kept their clothes on and one of them got murdered.

The piece centered around the extra marital exploits and past history of the matriarchal Penelope Singleton. Jo Yirrell created a very believable bitch who you almost wanted to boo in pantomime style she was so nasty. It was no surprise when she finally got the scissors in the back.    

Sharon Robinson as Vera - the leader of the WI pack – gave us a sturdy portrayal as she gamely tried to keep her troops in order, but the best characterisation came from Debbie Cheshire as the writer and part time sleuth Milly Jones. Debbie gave us a firm Margaret Rutherford style portrayal of a composed, confident character, who was friend to all and always in charge of any conversation.

Jo Harris as Penelope’s unwanted daughter Juliette did exceptionally well, there was certainly no indication that she had been a late replacement in the cast due to illness.    

Michelle Arnold and Karen Franks as Susan and Carol were a couple of gossips who both had their reasons for hating Penelope. The rest of the WI ladies were Penelope’s dismissed char lady Esther (Michelle Chamberlain), the interfering Annie (Jan Robinson) and Joyce (Sarah Connelly). Allanah Rogers played Penelope’s daughter Maggie who eventually found out about her mothers’ indiscretions and that she had a sister she had never known about.

On the male side John Bright ably played the caretaker and father Penelope disliked. Keith Turton provide the introductory context and final summary as Inspector Gaskin and the cast was completed by the Rev. James Oddicombe played by David Mills.

Keith’s storyline did provide us with many options for the killer, I believe that the script allowed for a different outcome on each performance which was an ingenious twist.    

The story included a sub plot around the village Christmas show, which gave the cast the opportunity to entertain us with a small number of songs and routines. Most noticeable were Jo Yirrell’s interpretation of “Santa Baby”, David Mills’ and Jo Harris’ rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside" and the ensembles very funny “The Woman’s Dead”.

Emily Wright’s small band competently provided the backing, although it was a shame that the sound levels on Michell Arnold’s “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” drowned out a lot of her words.

The set was fairly basic but along with staging and props it was in keeping with the era and provided enough to set the scene for all the action. On such a small stage Keith managed to move his characters around very well, particularly when conversations moved from one set of characters to another.

The costumes helped to give the feel of the 50’s.

Overall it was a little simplistic in nature, but this kind of show is not there to provide theatrical excellence but to engage and amuse an audience out on a miserable evening for some light entertainment - and on that score it was a success.

St. Andrew’s Players


review date: 10th Nov 2017 - Caddington Village School

    Directed & Written by: Keith Turton

Choreographer: Jo Harris

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