Review. Tiptoe Through the Tombstones – Byley Village Players
It is no surprise, then, that the author received many requests to write a sequel. But how do you do that when you have killed off most of the characters? The answer is to have a whole new load of oddball members of the Tomb family gather in the library at Monument House for the reading of yet another will.
The author describes this play as a homage to the comedy thriller that audiences loved so much in the fifties and eccentric characters are the staple ingredient.
There is Mortimer Crayle, confidently portrayed by John Stock, who is the lawyer who cuts a calm, if musty, figure but is also quietly crafty. Apparently in league with his secretary to defraud the family but if that is the case who is it on the telephone that he calls ‘pussy cat’? The secretary in question is Zoe, a hard faced snotty cow who is not the sort of person to make friends easily, if indeed she has any friends at all. Byley favourite Suzy Cartlidge plays the role with utter conviction it’s hard to imagine what a pleasant young lady she is in real life (trust me, she is!)
The first person on stage, however, is Vernon – apparently a stereotypical 60’s homosexual with his pink marigolds. As a cleaner I can just imagine him saying ‘just look at the muck in here’. Simon Jones seems to revel in the campness of his character and manages some glorious facial expressions. He also has some of the best lines which is perhaps why, when he is referred to as ‘only the cleaner’, our ears prick up as though we have heard the first clue that things might not be what they seem. Vernon is soon joined on stage by Edna. Edna – this dim looking girl appears at first as if she is merely a sponge for the Vernon’s wicked lines but the Victoria Bennion manages to hint that Edna may not really be as gormless and innocent as she first appears as gradually more aspects to her character are revealed.
The first of the Tombs is Octavia played Leona Thomas. She is aristocratic, gaunt and deathly pale. She wears thick steel rimmed glasses but the eyes behind them miss nothing, She has an uncanny ability to communicate with the other side but will supernatural powers save her from death from unnatural causes? Then there is Henrietta. A stout woman who wears Harris tweeds, sensible shoes and a permanent scowl. The sparring with Octavia is a delight and this Margot Woodward makes the most of some knock out lines.
Enter Augustus – pompous, booming and loud in every sense. Utterly convinced of his superiority but his relatives don’t see it that way. Frank Leather is perfect in this role as is Audrey Stock as his sister Athene who is the first to introduce a twist to the tale and first to appear on stage wielding a deadly weapon.
The final Tomb is Fabia (Fabia, Octavia. I wonder if Norman Robins drives a Skoda.). Lucy Hough plays this busty, busting out, flirtatious character with gusto, immediately turning her attentions on poor Larry, played by John Stock, even though she cannot know what on earth he looks like under his bizarre costume.
It is, in fact, the arrival of Larry that begins the capers when he blocks Fabia’s, and everyone else’s, passage by wrapping his van around a tree in thick fog and ensuring that a number of unexpected guests have to stay the night. Fabia knows how to turn this to her advantage but as the play progresses it becomes clear that everyone has their own ideas about how to get more than their fair share of the inheritance and the allegiances become ever more complex.
This is the sort of play where nothing is what is seems and nobody is who they appear to be so be prepared for plenty of surprises along the way. As Mortimer Crayle says, never underestimate the Tombs.
Performances are Thurs, Fri & Sat 15th – 17th October at 7.30pm at Byley Village Hall. Bookings can be made by contacting John Stock on 01477 533293 and all tickets are just £6.00.