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There's A New Belgian Detective In Town And She's A Woman
A remote island hotel, a collection of suspicious guests seemingly with something to hide from their past, and a clever Belgian amateur detective - the plot has surely come straight out of the pages of an Agatha Christie novel. But while the ingredients for the story may sound the same, this is the classic whodunit in the more than capable hands of the award-winning theatre company, New Old Friends. Their latest production, Crimes Under the Sun, which visited the Lichfield Garrick theatre on Saturday 17 March, is a comedy thriller of the highest order.
The cast of Crimes Under The Sun. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
Excellently directed by James Farrell, New Old Friends has a cast of just four actors to play the dozen or so characters who ultimately find themselves stranded on the island off the English coast following a storm. For Hercule Poirot read Artemis Arinae, a female sleuth - but still Belgian - who constantly battles for recognition in the male-dominated world she inhabits. Superbly played by new addition Jill Myers, who has appeared on TV in the likes of Coronation Street and the BBC's From Darkness, Artemis is quietly writing her memoirs when the body of a femme fatale turns up on the beach. Inevitably, all the guests - as well as the hotel manager - are immediately suspected of the crime.
Many of the characters played by just a cast of four. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
Admirably, all the other characters that make up Crimes Under The Sun are played by just three splendid actors - Feargus Woods Dunlop and Heather Westwell, who jointly run New Old Friends, and regular contributor Jonny McLean. Feargus takes on the diverse roles of explorer Mr Cholmondeley, priest Father Ginnell and ex-military man Major Peavey, while Jonny variously becomes hotel manager Alcazar, womanising Michael Redwood, police inspector Aquafresh, and - the most challenging of all - 11 year old Lucien in a sort of homage to French painter Toulouse-Lautrec.
Heather Westwell as Rose and Jonny McLean as 11-year-old Lucien. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
Completing the line-up is Heather who performs as All-American free diver Selina Bellman, whose great diving rival just happens to be staying in the same hotel, heiress Rose Wentworth and waitress Maggie. But she also hilariously and cleverly takes on the task of playing three police officers at the same time armed only with a moustache and a pair of glasses as disguises. Feargus, Heather and Jonny are particularly impressive when they are forced into a madcap quick change sequence as Jill (Artemis) runs through the list of potential suspects. And, against the backdrop of the murder comes the revelation that a fortune in treasure may have been lost on a sunken ship, which could explain the presence of two experienced free divers in the hotel.
Feargus as Father Ginnell with Jonny as Alcazar and Jill Myers as the sleuth Artemis Arinae. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
April 6 The Riverfront Newport
April 7 - 8 Dorchester Arts
April 10 Lakeside Arts Nottingham
April 11 Newbury Corn Exchange
April 12 Tacchi-Morris Taunton
April 13 Taliesin Swansea
April 14 Torch Theatre Milford Haven
April 17 - 20 Eden Court Inverness
April 24 Queens Hall Hexham
April 25 Gala Durham
April 26 The Civic Barnsley
April 27 - 28 The Hawth Crawley