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Twists to make your head spin

By erin kavanagh-hall@age co nz

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ENIGMATIC: The Countess (Simone Sail) reacts while the characters of Bloody Murder discuss the mindset of the writer who wrote them into a work of murder-mystery fiction.
ENIGMATIC: The Countess (Simone Sail) reacts while the characters of Bloody Murder discuss the mindset of the writer who wrote them into a work of murder-mystery fiction.

Poirot, Gosford Park, a good old-fashioned game of Cluedo and The Sixth Sense - mix them together and you've got a "bloody" good night at the theatre.

Ed Sala's Bloody Murder is the latest offering from Harlequin Theatre, directed by Graeme Burnard - a 1920s murder mystery with an edge.

Before the play opened, Burnard warned it had so many twists and turns it was "like taking a drive over the Rimutakas" and I and my fellow audience members were left head-scratching until the final curtain.

Bloody Murder is set on a lavish country estate in the 1920s, where a group of murder mystery stock characters - the fabulously wealthy duchess, her long-suffering maid, her "useless" nephew, the exotic seductress, the retired army major, the inebriated actor and the endearing ingenue - meet for a weekend.

Eventually, they realise they are characters in a poorly-written detective novel and, being sick to death of the conventions of detective fiction, they decide to rebel against the author and declare they are done with murders.

The author, however, isn't so easily defeated and so, chaos ensues.

It's an idea I wished I'd thought of - and Burnard's cast did an excellent job of pulling it off.

Rose Blackett as Lady Somerset, the "frightfully British" duchess, carried the play, with the stateliness of Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey and the affectation of Jennifer Saunders in Ab Fab.

Another favourite was 17-year-old Simone Sail, who played the enigmatic Countess with a dark, almost ominous sensuality, and an outrageous Eastern European accent.

Simone also played Emma Rees, the angelic babe in the woods - with a twist.

Steve Lillyston was perfectly pompous as the elderly major, Stefan van Trigt played faded thespian Devon Tremaine with sleaze and self-deprecation, and Hugh Morrison-Thomas was hilarious as the poncy Charles Pomeroy.

Angela Yeoman played rebellious maid Jane and, although her New Zealand twang felt out of place, gave a believable performance.

Credit must also be given to the props and costuming department. From the ladies' opulent ball gowns, fur stoles and hairpieces, to the Persian rugs and velvet curtains, the 1920s upper crust fanfare was captured perfectly (apart from the song Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway which is from 1931).

Bloody Murder was a great script - in its lampooning of traditional murder mysteries and commentary on the author-character relationship - and it was very well executed (pardon the pun) by Burnard and his crew.

As the frightfully British characters would say, "jolly good show".

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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