Out of Sight Out of Murder

June 2010

Out of Sight

A Mystery Comedy
by Fred Carmichael
Directed by Kathy Phillips

Click here for photos of this production 

THE PLOT is ingenious.  A mystery writer scratching his head at his typewriter in a drafty old Scottish house is struck by lightning in a fierce Highland storm and while he lies stunned the characters in his book come alive and create the perfect murder plot for him.

“I wish!” I can hear a multitude of writers cry as they scratch their heads and draw blood trying to think up a first line for a new book.   Stand by for global reports of writers rushing about in storms hoping to be struck by lightning.

It sounds a bit MAD and it is.  The comedy thriller ‘Out of Sight Out of Murder’ is the latest spell-binding production by the Methodist Amateur Dramatics group at Sevenoaks Road with nine of their thespians having a whale of a time weaving their way through the twists and turns.  Glenn Crane in the role of the author, Peter, gave a performance of sustained bewilderment as the fictional characters ran circles round him and he tried to make sense of their shenanigans.

They threw everything at him.  Creaking doors, rotting stairs in the basement, banshees howling on the moors, secret panels in the library and gallons of cyanide in the cocktails served,  of course, by a sinister butler called Cogburn.   This role was a gift for the rich talents of David Howkins who has trod these MAD boards with distinction for many years.

He cast his red herrings in every direction with threatening dread so that poor old Peter had so many suspects for his whodunit it seemed at times as if everybody did it.  Except the butler, of course, who kept on surviving while the victims fell to the unknown executioner.

Not that they had any complaints about making their untimely exits. Addie (Katie Parker), the gormless maid rushed out into the night to be killed by a large vase thrown from the roof.  The others delighted in telling Peter that they had been ‘knocked off’ by better authors than him in literary history.  They had over the decades appeared in the works of a galaxy of mystery writers from Agatha Christie to Edgar Alan Poe,

Lydia the traditional ‘Thirties flapper (elegantly played by Nicola Parker) dressed in white with a long cigarette holder looked as if she must have had many an interesting encounter with Hercule Poirot.   “I am going to get killed” she blithely announced.  “I always get killed”

The beautiful young ingénue, Kay, was played by Alice Phillips with the right mixture of youthful self-confidence and apprehension. The male lead, Dick, (played by Angus Challener) sealed his own fate when he was too eager to get to the love scene (“there’s always got to be a love scene”).  The unconscious author Peter promptly wrote him out of the play with an ‘accidental’ swig of cyanide.  Turned out that Peter was after Kay, himself.

We must expect startling twists in works of this nature, of course, but this, I think, was a twist too far which stretched the elastic to breaking point.   For a start it turned the author into a ‘baddie’.   Heaven forfend!   It also raised impenetrable legal questions.   Could a real author, one wonders, face criminal charges for murdering a fictional character in a love triangle?  There is another play there, surely.

The plot thickens in this play with the discovery of hidden documents which reveal a fortune left to Kay by a man who invented paper clips.  This leads to a lawyer (Chris Price) getting murdered.   By the end there was a mass Mexican stand-off by the surviving characters in which Cogburn the butler waved a gun and claimed he was doing it for all butlers in fiction to protect their reputation.   David Howkins declaimed like Lenin announcing the revolution.

The infectious idea spread to the others, Fiona (the grand dame, Jan Luff) a mature knitting fanatic not unlike Miss Marples, wanted a grandstand exit, too, to get herself into another book.  It was left to Caroline Licence as Minna the landlady of the house and the only real person to rescue Peter from his characters by restoring his senses with a cup of tea/glass of water.  The backstage crew did a great job in creating this splendid production.  James Murray

  • Kathy Phillips is to be congratulated on her directorial debut; Out of Sight Out of Murder was an excellent choice and her casting was superb.  The dialogue was quick and witty and all the cast made it seem effortless.  Dick Stanton's much used phrase sums it up perfectly - It was great!   Ruth
  • An unusual plot, very well 'executed' by all those taking part.  One of the best MAD productions I have seen.  Declan
  • A-MA-ZING, every part played brilliantly, a great evening's entertainment, beats football any day! Stephanie 
  • Another fantastic performance by nine professionals - well done to you all.  Congratulations to the backstage crew who once again did us proud.  We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Marnie
  • Another great performance! The Butler did it in more ways than one! The wonderful acting by all was absorbing and funny. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Can't wait for the next one! Maja
  • Our introduction to MAD - brilliant!  A thoroughly entertaining evening - well done everyone.  Kim & John
  • Well done, Kathy - what an accomplished production for a first-time director.  Script was highly original and hugely funny; cast were well cast and played their characters brilliantly; set, costumes and props were just right for the gloomy house and stylish era.  And did I miss the football? MAD 1 England 0!  Helen
  • Excellent script...superb set...a well directed, competent cast...a giggle (or should it be jiggle) from the beginning to THE END! Ernie
  • Well done for the great performance. I really enjoyed it.  The play had good pace and there were strong performances from all the cast under Kathy Phillips excellent direction for her debut production.  Hopefully there will be many more after she has a well deserved break!  Glenn did very well and managed to remember all of his 800 lines and there was good chemistry between him, Alice and Nic.  Tony W
  •  Another excellent production by the cast and crew of MAD.  Having read the synopsis of the play, I really wasn't sure how it would work with imaginary characters coming to life, yet with the help of a very strong cast, the wonderfully stereotypical characters all appeared engaging, and produced a witty, clever and original play. Just one question.  On the evening England were playing Algeria in the World Cup, was it a deliberate ploy to have the white paper "bonds" tied up with red ribbon, so that they looked like the cross of St. George...? Very clever, if so, and by the sound of it we had a far more entertaining evening than the football fans!"  Wendy
    When commenting on any play, the first consideration must go to the author for, without his or her work, there would be no play.  Fred Carmichael was the author of the brilliantly funny ‘Out of Sight Out of Murder’ and this mystery comedy was chosen to be MAD’s latest production.  Nonetheless, it takes a cast to bring a play to life, or not, as the case may be.  However there was no doubt about the competence of all concerned with the unfolding of Fred’s story about a struggling writer whose characters come to life and act out their own mystery in a gloomy Scottish mansion. A play like this is the result of teamwork and congratulations go to the people that designed and built the gloomily evocative set, managed the props, fitted the cast into their beautifully authentic costumes, organised the sound and lighting and the rest of the team.  The whole cast put on remarkable performances.  Glenn Crane portrayed the distraught young author, Peter Knight and glamour was provided by Nicola Parker as the alluring Lydia.  David Howkins repeatedly brought the house down as the butler, Cogburn and Jan Luff excelled herself as the acerbic spinster, Fiona.  The charming Alice Phillips played the ingénue, Kay Kelsey opposite male juvenile Dick Stanton played by Angus Challener.  Chris Price was the first to die as lawyer Jordan Dillingham followed, in short order by the maid Addie played by Katie Parker.  Besides Peter Knight, the only other ‘real’ human in the play was his neighbour Minna depicted by Carolyn Licence.  Nor must we forget the ‘hidden talents’ of Janet Hayley whose dulcet tones were occasionally heard as she brought the players back on track.   A splendidly funny evening and so much more entertaining than watching England draw with Algeria! Steve C
  • What a wonderfully funny and well acted play! The audience were treated to some great characters and lines from Fred Carmichael's mystery comedy. It told of a struggling murder mystery writer, admirably played by Glenn Crane, sent to write a murder mystery in a remote Scottish house. His only companion is a chatty Scottish housekeeper (well portrayed by Carolyn Licence) who remains delightfully ignorant of the mayhem to follow. By magic, characters in his head come alive and take over the plot. First there is the elegant Lydia, glamorously played by Nicola Parker. Then there is the urbane butler, Cogburn, suavely brought to life by David Howkins. Into this mix arrives Kay, the pretty innocent victim beautifully brought to life by Alice Phillips. Then arrives the stock crotchety spinster along the lines of Miss Marple, armed with alarming knitting and played with style by Jan Luff. She is followed by the ever tearful and pregnant by some dastardly deed maid, Addie, with a lovely performance from Katie Parker. She is quickly followed by the ever hopeful and optimistic young hero character, Dick, effervescently played by Angus Challener. The final character is the evil and scheming lawyer, Jordan Dillingham, with an appropriately menacing performance from Chris Price. There then follows lots of laughter as characters start to be bumped off and those remaining on the stage (and the audience) try to work out 'who dunnit'. Full marks to the cast.  Everybody laughed throughout the performance with punch lines delivered with delightful regularity.  Full marks also to the director, Kathy Phillips, the set, the costumes, the sound and lights and all concerned.  Gillian and I overheard one member of the audience remark 'with such a performance there is no need to go to the West End'.  How could one disagree!  Commiserations to those who preferred to endure a certain World Cup Football Match. As all those who sat in a certain Church Hall will no doubt confirm there was much better fare on offer courtesy of MAD. Malcolm D


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