Arsenic and Old Lace
The Napier Repertory Players
Napier Little Theatre, McGrath St, Napier
On until March 2
0508 iTICKET (484-253)
Reviewed by Kay Bazzard

It's Art Deco season and the classic Arsenic and Old Lace, a farcical and sinister comedy seems the ideal production for the Napier Rep with its old-world manners, period costumes and dark eccentricity. Set in Brooklyn during World War II it was first produced in New York in 1941 and delighted audiences.

The Napier Rep cast carried this macabre comedy off with obvious enjoyment and ease. The elderly Brewster sisters, Martha and Abby, played by Verona Nicholson and Adrienne Hurley were delightful as the demure poisoners running a charitable enterprise murdering lonely old men.

Their elderberry wine with arsenic cocktails meant instant death for the lonely old codgers who lodged in their spare room. This resulted in 12 (or was it 13?) bodies buried in the cellar.


There were gems of performance in the minor roles too - Brent Fairlie as the Reverend Harper/Officer O'Hara, Neil McCorkell as Mr Gibbs/Mr Witherspoon, and Glenn Cook as Lieutenant Rooney New York cop.

The casting was excellent; not only were the players having great fun as they performed, they knew their characters well.

There were moments during the play when the timing could have sharpened up the humour but it was otherwise wholly enjoyable, its edgy comedy created by the implied violence of the storyline and the joyful manners and tone of the script.