Arsenic, Old Lace and lots of laughs

By Tristan Harris 30/03 Updated: 30/03 23:54

THERE were lots of laughs at The Palace Theatre, as All and Sundry performed Joseph Kesselring's classic Arsenic and Old Lace.

The play centres around drama critic Mortimer Brewster who, in between reviewing plays and trying to decide whether or not to marry the love of his life Elaine Harper, has to also deal with his two aunties Martha and Abby who have acquired a penchant for putting old men out of their misery.

The performance enabled the audience to take a break from the doom and gloom of the petrol crisis and see a performance which was fueled by plenty of energy, erraticness and enthusiasm.

This great script was really brought to life by another talented cast that took the writer's intended dramatic tension and used it to the full to create a hilarious night of entertainment.

Everyone played their part on the night but Barbara Treen and Mary Field excelled in their roles as twittering old dear aunties Martha and Abby. Their dead-pan approach showed perfectly the naivety and irony of their characters who, in their own little world, took a moral high ground on giving their victims a 'good Christian burial' in the cellar and the good jobs that the police did for them, despite them being murderers.

That aspect, coupled with the brilliant Rory McGhie, who, as favourite nephew Mortimer, was frantically running around trying to cover up the old dears' antics made this production. His comedy timing, erratic actions and mannerisms were immense - especially against the backdrop of the aunties' incessant ramblings.

Malcolm Berwick was suitably evil as prodigal baddie Jonathan and his side-kick, alcoholic surgeon Dr Einstein, was also well-played by Roger Goddard.

And, if all that wasn't enough, Chris Hall was also fantastic as eccentric fantasist Teddy Brewster who believed he was American President Roosevelt. His brief appearances added even more comedy to the mix in what was a frantic comedy that you just could not take your eyes off for a minute as you wondered what would happen next.

The final performances of Arsenic and Old Lace take place at the Palace Theatre on Saturday (March 31) at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. For more, or tickets, visit: or call 01527 65203. Tickets are £11 (£10 concessions) for the matinee, when it is 'buy one get one free' or £12 (£11 concessions) for the 7.30pm performance.

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