"A nostalgic taste of murder"
by Andy MOSELEY for remotegoat on 08/11/15

Set in Hampstead in 1957, A Rather English Murder is perfectly suited to its time and title. This is not a grubby murder with villains and motives at every turn, there isn’t even a detective. Instead writer Ted Dickson captures the atmosphere of a city welcoming rock and roll and would be Bohemian poets, whilst still steeped in English reserve and correct standards of behaviour.
Into the house of Mabel, an agony aunt played by Angela Walsh, comes new arrival Edward, a playwright by occupation if not by actually having written anything. Presumably modelled on Dickson himself, given that the play draws on his experience of lodging in Hampstead in the 50s, Edward is polite and principled, a nervous man new to the city he wants to make his name in. His fellow lodgers are an odd mix including a gardener, a handyman, a poet and a mysterious fourth man called Badger who is never seen but whose presence is still a source of discomfort to all.
That Badger does not make it out of the first act will not come as any surprise given that he is the most obvious candidate to be unceremoniously bumped off. The inconvenience of Edward’s discovery of the body, shortly before Mabel has an important social function to attend, lends the play its uniquely English, uniquely 50s feel. Veering between farce, as Mabel and the lodgers attempt to prevent the cleaner entering his room, satire, as a debate on whether to report the death takes place, and a tale of manners and etiquette, the one thing the play never quite manages to be is a murder mystery. The reason why Badger died and who may have killed him is less important than what to do with him now.
The characters are well drawn and well portrayed. John Askew skilfully conveys the ‘innocent abroad’ naivety of Edward, Nigel Osner provides a very nice cameo as the poet out of touch with the more down to earth aspects of 50s society, and Daniel Brown and Matt Hyde provide the black and white world view to offset the more ethereal nature of their fellow lodgers. As Mabel, Walsh has a suitably grandiose air that at times makes her sound worryingly like Margaret Thatcher in waiting, while Ingrid Evans provides the trigger for the more farcical aspects of the play as the cleaner who always appears when she isn’t wanted.
At around 80 minutes playing time, it feels like the story is stretched a little too far at present, and should either be made into a tighter one act play, or developed further to sustain the plot for the time required for a two act. The chances of this happening may be small however as Dickson died in 2013 and the play is staged in his memory. As a tribute to him it is a fitting memorial, as well as an entertaining slice of nostalgia in its own right.

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