Death is in the air - but who will be the one to meet their maker?
This was the question on everyone’s lips at the Leighton Buzzard Drama Group’s latest production of hilarious black comedy, Natural Causes.
Written by Eric Chappell, creator of Rising Damp and desperate old miser Rigsby, there’s plenty of desperation in this adaptation of his 1992 creation - desperation for death!
But who wants who to to die, and who actually bites the dust, is another matter...
Quick witted suicide merchant suspiciously called ‘Vincent Vincent’ (Tony White) has arrived at the grand country house of Walter Bryce (Russell Bennett) to give him a poison to end it all - or so he thinks...
After a discussion about Slough, fried rice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Vincent slips the drink into Walter’s glass - only to discover in the nick of time that the elixir of death isn’t for him!
The real reason Walter’s so twitchy is because he’s trying to top off his wife and femme fatale, Celia (Caroline Page) who’s had the big D ever since they got married.
Oh and he’s also having an affair with his short-skirted secretary Angie (Trish Turner), so, you know, his spouse’s demise would be convenient...
The audience has great fun as they, along with Vincent, try to work out who could be poisoned next, but there’s one thing for certain, it’s always the poor pot plant!
White is fantastic fun as cheeky chappie, Vincent, - well, he’s got to keep cracking out the jokes if he works alongside death all day. White’s merchant is highly perceptive to moods and emotions, but not the quickest off the block when it comes to guessing his clients’ intentions.
Page always won laughs as long-suffering drama queen, Celia, whose first encounter with the audience is whilst she’s wearing a flamboyant pink dressing gown - but don’t be fooled by her damsel in distress act.
Page brings out Celia’s layers, and the needy wife is not as oblivious or as feeble as we are at first led to believe.
Bennett is perfect as the scheming yet lovable buffoon, Walter, who is plotting with Angie to bump Celia off.
Bennett plays Walter as a man you can sympathise with - torn between his draining wife and ambitious lover - but does he really want Celia to die?
Turner is great as feisty employee Angie, turning on the charm for Celia and keeping Walter well under her thumb. Her cold character is quite believable as someone who would tread - or make love - on your grave...
But there must be some light to all of this?
Well, cue Withers - “damn!” (He’s not supposed to reveal his name!). Withers (Ben Clarke) is the larger than life Samaritans charity worker who is ready to save any character at a moment’s notice!
Given the current sensitivity around ‘hot topic’ mental health, perhaps in a modern script there wouldn’t be so much fun poked at Withers. But, as director Carl Russell reminds us about the issues Chappell’s work features - this is 26 years ago, so “take it at face value”.
Clarke has the audience in stitches, pulling up his socks, and always bounding in as a bright white saviour.
And as we approach Brexit d-day in a climate of doom and gloom, there’s really no harm in hearing the words “isn’t life wonderful?” all evening.
It’s another corker from LBDG - and if you haven’t seen it already, do!
Natural Causes: September 28 and 29, 8pm, Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre.