Agatha Crusty and the Village Hall Murders

Reviewed by The Doorsteppa Magazine

Agatha Crusty

The City Players performed in front of a packed house, as they took on this lively original comedy by Derek Webb.

The story is centred on Chortleby Village Hall where several bizarre murders begin to occur coinciding with the visit of crime novelist and super sleuth Agatha Crusty.

When bumbling detective Twigg (expertly played by Players regular Matthew Joynes) turns up to investigate it’s not long before the bodies start piling up and Crusty’s (pronounced Crew-Sty!) powers of deduction are needed. From Toby, the Vicar, and Eleanor, Chair of the committee, to Harry Knott the caretaker and identical twins Olivia and Oliver, there are plenty of suspects to go at!

Walking into the Corner Playhouse, I felt an air of anticipation, knowing that I was completely unaware of the story. The title obviously suggesting this was going to be a comedy. Once again, I was safe in the hands of the excellent ensemble cast and front of house team.

Agatha Crusty

The set was created to use the entire stage, larger than I’ve previously seen, and was entirely played in the Village Hall. This was a play with several scene breaks and for the first time in my attending the curtains were left open during these recesses as we observed the cast shifting the set furniture. All played out with a madcap melody buzzing in the background this suited the zippy, manic nature of the story and really added something new to the experience.

This was a definitive ensemble piece with a large cast of characters who all added to the mystery and comedy.

Carole Wilkinson playing Crusty was her usual competent self and played brilliantly against Joynes in a partnership that always deserves more sequels.

New actors Alex Dornan and Todd Hardman both played two characters in the play, a solid achievement amidst more experienced performers. Hardman played both Olivia & Oliver (brother & sister) and his entrance won’t be soon forgotten. Dornan threw herself into the role and even when the dialogue wasn’t centred on her appeared very natural, she never broke character or looked to be waiting for her next line.

A special mention must also go to both Nick Di Nitto and Anne Wing. The latter’s over-the-top entrance (and exit?) mid-way through the play had the audience curling with laughter. And it was good to see Nick on stage as opposed to behind the scenes.

While jam packed full of witty one-liners that would take a second viewing to catch all, this is also a genuine murder mystery with an intelligent plot and strong finale.

The City Players kept the pace going and to their credit amidst all the chaos I never felt lost. It sums it up that when I was leaving The Corner Playhouse, I heard unanimous positivity. Another success!

"Agatha Crusty and The Village Hall Murders". The Doorsteppa, April 2014. Print.