2003 Death Beneath the Stars
Detective Inspector Birch – Lindzi Hayward
This was another good showing from Lindzi as bad-tempered plod, DI Birch. Yet again, he had the lion’s share of the lines to learn and yet again, he made light work of it. His one slip on the first night did not unduly upset the flow of the performance – although it did unduly upset Geoff, who was left stranded in the wings throughout his entire ‘interview scene’ as a result! Ooops!
Sally Flint - Catherine Grieff
Having prompted for the previous production, Catherine returned to the stage in good form here as the scientific journalist Sally Flint, and proved to be a good comic foil for the curmudgeonly Birch. “Haven’t you ever wondered if there’s intelligent life on other planets?” asks Flint, as the subject of aliens develops. “I sometimes wonder if there’s intelligent life on this planet!” comes Birch’s scathing reply. Catherine always seemed more comfortable with the ‘journalist’ aspect of the role, rather than the ‘scientific’, but she persevered well with the astronomy guff, and didn’t miss a single cue to boot. Well done.
Colin Forbes – Simon Perkins
Simon once said that the only parts he’s ever asked to play are complete twits. (Or words very similar, at least). But he can have no complaints here, as he took on the role of the lover, the genius, the scoundrel and the body all in one character! And a fine job he made of it too. Simon’s ability to pull out a top performance on the night is matched only by his utter inability to learn his bloody lines at any point prior to that moment. An audiences’ delight, but a director’s nightmare! He narrowly missed out on the ‘star performance’ honours this time round for precisely that reason!
Kitty Forbes – Wendy Saunders
Welcome back Wendy, who picked up a larger than normal role as the enigmatic 2nd Mrs Forbes. (She was last seen prior to this right back in June 2002 in Surprise Package). Not only was Wendy word perfect on the night but she also brought a nice vulnerability to the role of Kitty. Did she really smash-up that Porshe with a hammer? Surely not. Excellent crying too!
Professor Duncan Matthews – Neil Price
The seemingly jinxed role of ‘Duncan Matthews’ had already seen off two actors before Neil bravely stepped in at the eleventh hour to literally save the production. And what a lucky find he proved to be, as he learnt his lines in about a week and was a calming influence on stage throughout. He even shrugged off the ill effects of a bruising encounter with a pile of scaffold poles from the day before to appear, heavily made-up, on the opening night! Neil dealt with the audience cross-examination particularly well and helped finish the final scene off in style. Bravo!
Professor George Ingram – Geoff Brown
This was another good performance from Totternhoe Players stalwart, Geoff, as the Observatory Manager with the posh friends and the son-in-law from hell. Geoff clearly graduated from the Perkins school of learning lines (or was it vice-versa?), but like Simon, he knew them well enough on the night. Shame he didn’t get to say them all! (See DI Birch, above). As usual he attracted the majority of the awkward questions from the audience – why is that? – and as usual he answered them all with terrific composure.
Margaret Adams – Joan Gardner
Joan can be always be relied upon to give a strong and convincing performance, and did so again here as the catering manager and protective mother, Margaret. Faultless with her lines, as ever, she saved her best moment for the ‘final shock’, to help give the play a chilling finale. Very well done.
Jane Adams – Tracy Aitchison *
Various audience members are usually consulted when deciding who should win the award of ‘star performance’, but for once their voting was inconclusive. For Death Beneath the Stars, Catherine, Joan and Simon were all championed at some stage – which is why I mention them here – but in the absence of a consensus, the casting vote goes in favour of Tracy.
Having had only a fleeting cameo in her first production in June, the quality of Tracy’s performance here as the anxious young lover, Jane, was a real bonus. She learnt her lines without difficulty, showed good composure throughout and helped make credible the character whose testimony was probably the hardest to believe. What’s more, her tearful, shell-shocked performance in the interview scene with Birch (Lindzi’s savage interview technique and phenomenally loud voice will have helped there no doubt!) was a genuine highlight and helped to make the ‘murder mystery’ an engaging story in its own right. Very well done.
Judy Mackenzie – Karen Williams
Thank goodness for Karen, who has the relatively rare gift of being able to a) learn her lines early, and b) still remember them all on the night. This was probably her best performance to date as the feisty ex-wife Judy, and she helped give the fractious dinner party scene some real fizz. Especially when she leapt to her feet on the first night and nearly knocked a bottle of wine into the audience! (It just goes to show: the most dynamic stage directions are not always scripted!) Karen claimed to be too squeamish to really lay into her obnoxious ‘ex’ during the face-slapping scene, but I think the photograph in the Leighton Buzzard Observer would seem to suggest otherwise!
Kyle Mackenzie – Jonathan Goodson (Director)
Weighed down throughout by duties directorial, secretarial and miscellaneous – including phoning up complete strangers 4 weeks before the big night begging them to take the part of Duncan Matthews – the acting side of things was little more than a mild diversion for Jonathan. As it was, his rather anonymous, understated style was well suited to the role of the eclipsed husband, Kyle. (He may not be the brightest star in the sky, but he does produce the occasional flash of competence). Jonathan would like to add that whatever nuance of his performance led part of the audience to ask questions about a possible gay sub-plot, it was entirely unintentional!
Waitress No. 1 – Joyce Brown
A mere cameo for Joyce this time, after her exertions as Edith in ‘Allo Allo’ back in June. Her help in the cluttered dinner party scene was invaluable. The crackers were fresh, the cheese knige was to hand but not too obvious, and I believe the accent was Cornish. Many thanks!