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RATS' murder comedy makes a fun evening of theatre

REVIEW Death by Design at Memorial Hall, Rhiwbina

Imagine Noel Coward and Agatha Christie got together and wrote a play - you would get Death by Design, by Rob Urbinati - the latest production from Rhiwbina Amateur Theatrical Society (RATS), which opened in the village last night (Wednesday 10 July).

We find ourselves in 1932 in a house in the English countryside, where the guests are to be met by the Bennetts.

Edward Bennett (Mike Gelder) is a playwright, and his wife Sorel (Catrin McCarthy) an actor. They have taken refuge in their country home after Edward’s play has a disastrous West End opening night, and are bickering as to who is to blame for the poor reviews.

The impertinent maid Brigid (Alison Hawkesworth) and the lothario chauffer Jack (Tom Pile) are there to greet them as they retreat from the bright lights. Brigid is a keen amateur sleuth hoping to obtain a copy of Tittle Tattle to catch up on the latest macabre goings on in the world of crime. Jack is keen to meet the various women in his life.

Their guests arrive one by one: Walter Pearce (Eamonn Corbett), a Conservative MP whose party has just won a great victory in the election; Eric (Patrick Baker), a socialist looking to bring down the establishment with the help of Edward Bennett and his plays; and Victoria Van Roth (Lynda George), a bohemian artist keen to share her love of dance and art with the assembled guests.

As the evening moves on, and many cocktails are consumed, they begin to clash as their worlds collide. There is hostility towards Walter Pearce as his arrogance begins to surface.  He is over-familiar with Mrs Bennett in the presence of her husband, believes the maid should know her place, scorns Victoria Van Roth as she performs her new age dance, and inflames Eric who wants equality for all and an end to privilege. The hosts and guests become tired of his offhand manner to them and begin to retire for the night.

But who is this coming through the door in the darkened night, holding a gun?  Who is their intended victim? Will Brigid have her own crime to solve?

The play is set in the great tradition of a farce, and mixes comedy with the business of murder. The cast is completed by Amy Perry as Alice, and the director is Chris Collier-Roberts. The Rhiwbina Amateur Theatrical Society never fail to deliver a fun evening of theatre. 

Staged in the Memorial Hall in the Garden Village, this production was great fun to watch, and left us looking forward to the next show, A Few Good Men in October. It is such a privilege to enjoy theatre locally, and to support such an excellent local amateur group.

Death by Design continues at the Memorial Hall, Rhiwbina, tonight (Thursday 11 July) and tomorrow. Tickets are available from Ticket Source here.

Review by Helen Byrne

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