A Tomb With A View

May 27, 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆      Ridiculous

Church Hill Theatre: Wednesday 25 – Saturday 28 May 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Cheerfully ludicrous and staged with considerable craft, Edinburgh People’s Theatre’s production of A Tomb With A View is thoroughly entertaining.

Norman Robbins’s comedy whodunnit features a gathering for the reading of the will of Septimus Tomb, patriarch of a family of oddly-assorted (and often homicidal) characters. Soon the bodies start piling up…

Lynn Cameron, David Roach, Ruth Finlay, Tony Waterson. Pic: Scott Braidwood

Robbins could plausibly be seen as grassroots drama’s favourite playwright, with the official website dedicated to him listing eight productions of this play alone taking place around the globe in the first half of 2022.

A tightly constructed piece, making good use of one set, this works both as a comedy and (just about) as a murder mystery, although the plot is undoubtedly ridiculous and does not bear too much examination.

As such, it is ideal for a production that was something of a last-minute choice for EPT. To make things more tricky there is a Covid-shaped hole in the cast, which has been filled by one ‘Bertha Battleship’, a performer who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of director Derek Ward’s pantomime dames.

gusto

There would be no point portraying such a collection of peculiarly over-the-top characters with any reticence, and the cast attack the roles with gusto. Ruth Finlay’s Emily Tomb, constantly munching on an implausible series of fruit and veg, and Mandy Black’s Monica Tomb, whose appetites are directed more towards men, are both suitably larger than life.

Similarly compelling are Tony Waterson’s ‘mad scientist’ Lucien and Jacqueline Wheble as the distracted, ‘accidental’ mass poisoner Dora. Kevin Edie’s Marcus, whose dialogue is all Shakespearean due to his belief he is Julius Caesar (yes, really) is another performance that is pitched just right.

Mandy Black, David Roach, Lynn Cameron, Derek Ward, Ruth Finlay, Kevin Edie, Jacqueline Wheble, Tony Waterson. Pic: Scott Braidwood

It is a testament to Peter Horsfall and Kelly Simmonds’s sound operation that the final Tomb sibling, Oliver the apparent werewolf, is very much a part of the action even though he never actually sets foot on stage.

As outsiders, Lynn Cameron’s Freda and David Roach’s Perry are permitted a larger degree of reality, with Roach in particular managing to convince.

Gordon Braidwood’s less-than-reliable solicitor, Lynsey Spence’s wonderfully-judged Nurse Franklin and Ward’s fittingly absurd housekeeper Agatha round out an ensemble that has a pleasing togetherness.

clever momentum

Ward’s direction embraces the excesses of the plot rather than shying away from them, which is surely the way to go. There is the odd fluff and imprecision, and some of the pacing – particularly early on – is suspect, but overall there is a clever momentum to the production. The last act, when the constant series of murders has made the stage considerably less crowded, is particularly well done.

Robert Fuller and Mandy Black’s lighting is deliberately over-assertive, which adds greatly to the comic effect. Fuller and Alistair Brown’s set, meanwhile, is a glorious thing, solidly imposing and with a functioning secret passageway.

Not everything convinces, and some of the script is showing its age a little. But as a piece of nonsensical escapism, this more than passes muster.

Running time 2 hours 40 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33 Morningside Rd, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 25 – Saturday 28 May 2022
Wed- Fri 7.30 pm; Sat 2.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

Jacqueline Wheble, Derek Ward, Lynsey Spence, David Roach, Ruth Finlay, Gordon Braidwood. Pic: Scott Braidwood

ENDS

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