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Monday, 01 February 2016 (3074591)
Play was an enjoyable evening of mystery and nostalgia
by Ron Ellis

Death In High Heels

Southport Dramatic Club

Little Theatre, Southport

Review by Ron Ellis

WRITTEN by Christianna Brand and adapted for the stage by Robert Harris, Death in High Heels’ is an old-fashioned detective story harking back to the 1930’s and The Golden Era of Crime-Writing.

To the accompaniment of a Fred Astaire song, the curtain opens onto an impressive set, the sewing room at the back of an upmarket Haute Couture salon complete with dress rails and 30s costumes, thus immediately capturing the ambiance of the period.

The six females on the staff excitedly speculate on which of them will get the job of manager at the new salon that the owner is opening in Deauville. The two favourites are the two older ladies, Miss Doon (a stern Carole Quirke) and Miss Gregory (an equally stern Ann Richards), each of them involved in amorous liaisons with the owner, serial seducer, Frank Bevan (Howard Kernahan in James Bond mode), and consequently bitter enemies.

Diane Mackley gave a delightful performance as Miss Best, the cheery but forelock-tugging seamstress who has been there the longest and happily accepts being mother hen to her two younger colleagues.

A suitably mysterious Sarah Vialli played Mrs Gray, currently divorcing her husband but also involved with Mr Bevan, and Nikki Ritchie obviously enjoyed every minute playing the coquettish glamour girl, Miss Wheeler, regularly changing her dresses throughout the show, thereby raising the temperature of any gentlemen in the front row of the theatre by several degrees.

Ceri Powell had the simpering junior, Miss Mcinerny (aka Macoroni), off to a tee while Simon Hawkins, resplendent in frock coat and bow tie, was totally convincing as the camp fashion designer, Dorian Pouvier (aka Dora).

But this is a murder mystery and Act One ends with one of the ladies found poisoned. Whodunit?

Enter Detective Inspector Charlesworth (the urbane Giles Davidson), in regulation raincoat and trilby, and his sidekick, the serge-clad Sergeant Wyler, a great role for Angela Mcintyre who made the most of the double act with her boss.

One by one they question the survivors in true Poirot fashion until, in the customary surprise ending, the culprit is exposed.

Directed by Robin Hirsch, what made the play the most enjoyable was the banter between the girls and the references to WW2, Mr. Chamberlain and ‘nippies’(waitresses in Lyons Tea Rooms) and music by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra (courtesy of Brian Hodge) playing between the scenes, all adding to the elegant Thirties atmosphere.

How things change. Forty years later, we get The Sex Pistols!

Star Rating: 8 out of 10. An enjoyable evening of mystery and nostalgia  


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