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Festive mayhem and murder go hand in hand in new farce
Who would have thought that a despicable murder at Christmas could be so much fun? Step up the Lichfield Garrick Production Company who have come up with a knockabout festive farce crammed with more Christmas puns than it is possible to list. Christmas Carol Casebook: Away In A Danger is a hilariously silly take on the traditional murder whodunit. In place of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot we have none other than Detective Inspector Beth Lehem - yes, that is the benchmark this terrific comedy playsets. Other puns come thick and fast throughout the two-hour show, which is currently being staged in Lichfield Garrick's studio theatre until January 4 next year. Another example? Spies from Minsk in becomes confused as seasonal favourite mince-pies with the help of a thick Russian accent!
Barry (James Steventon) and Det Insp Lehem (Lucy Pearson) either side of Gladys (Dannie Harris). Photo Karen Foster
This excellent production, well managed by director Sean Turner, relies on just four young and very talented actors who, between them, deliver a multitude of diverse roles. James Steventon is outstanding as the central character, choirmaster Barry Tone (I kid you not!), who finds himself falsely accused of stabbing pianist Gladys to death with his conductor's baton during rehearsals for a carol concert. The police, led by the aforementioned DI Lehem, are soon in hot pursuit as Barry flees Lichfield in a bit to prove his innocence. Lucy Pearson is equally superb in her dual role as the intrepid detective and her twin sister, pub landlady Steph. including a hilarious and exhausting conversation between the two.
Beth Lilley (left) and Dannie Harris as a pair of shepherds. Photo Karen Foster
It is then left to the equally versatile Beth Lilley and Dannie Harris, the latter of whom only graduated from drama 'school' this year, to play a myriad of other roles between them. They include a pair of shepherds, two dodgy Russian tourists, motorway workers, police officers, suspicious Santas, a bellringer (Beth) and someone painstakingly conducting a visitor survey in Lichfield Cathedral (Dannie). In fact, Dannie also displays a musical talent by tinkling the ivories herself, both as Gladys at the start of the show and also later on. There are various other comedy highlights throughout the production, but special praise is due for the appearance of flocks of sheep - and the sheep puns that followed - and a combined Elvis Presley tribute.
Det Insp Beth Lehem with one of her officers. Photo Karen Foster
Christmas Carol Casebook: Away in a Danger can be seen in the Lichfield Garrick studio theatre on selected dates up to and including Saturday 4 January 2020. Tickets priced from £20 are available by visiting the Lichfield Garrick website at www.lichfieldgarrick.com or by calling the box office on 01543 412121.