An Absolute Farce of a Murder Mystery by Peter Rae. The Drayton Arms Theatre, 153 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 to 11 March 2023. 4****. William Russell.

Arguably the hammiest show in town this mix of Agatha Christie murder tales, goings on an old dark house and Blithe Spirit written by Peter Rae provides lots of laughs and some over the top performances to marvel at. It also has a great role for Helen Bang who, as well as directing, gets to do her Arcati as Lady Susan, a neighbouring psychic. – someone give her the chance at Coiward. She gets terrific support from Rosalind Blessed, sounding every decibel her father’s daughter, as Lady Honoria, the love lorn daughter of the owner of Garbadale Manor (The Monstrous Patriarch played by Toby Wynn Davies) in which the events take place. Honoria fancies Manning the butler (Christian Ballantyne), who reciprocates, while Lady Susan is in love with Sir Percy (Duncan Wilkins), son of the Patriarch and – well things get very complicated, a ghost seems to haunt the place, seances are held, a body is found but is not dead, love letters are written and delivered to the wrong people, and Isabella the housemaid (Holly Ashman) turns out not to be a hen-toed country girl with a speech impediment or maybe just a thick yokel accent but somebody else altogether. It has been slickly directed by Helen Bang, moves for most of the time at the necessary speed required by farce. The denouement does take rather too long to come to an end, however, as the alleged ghost (Zusana Spacirova), who has been dashing in and out and screaming from time to time, seizes his or her chance to grandstand. Things would have been helped with a more conventional set with doors to slam and french windows to add to the entrance and exit possibilities but it hardly matters – art it ain’t but fun it is, a barrel of laughs, provided you like that kind of thing.

Holly Ashman: Isabella the maid.

Christian Ballantyne: Manning, the butler.

Helen Bang: Lady Susan the psychic.

Rosalind Blessed: Lay Honoria the daughter.

Peter Rae: Lord Sebastian Hardcastle the rake.

Zuzana Spacirova: Phillip.

Duncan Wilkins: Sir Percy the son.

Toby Wynn Davies: The Monstrous Patriarch.

Director: Helen Bang.

Movement Director: Kir Westdal.

Costumes: Lizzie Maria Wood.

Lighting Design: Roel Fox.

Sound Design: Canonbie Productions.

Production Photographs: Jakub Bachleda-Wala

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection