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Busybody (tour-Stevenage)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Dead bodies should be left to rest in peace. Of course, that doesn’t always happen in life, and even less in fiction. Take, for example, the perambulating corpse which is at the core of Jack Popplewell’s 1964 comedy thriller Busybody. Come to that, take the play itself. It’s of its period – no bad thing in itself – but Andrew Lynford’s direction does it few favours.

The central character is a charwoman of a type (Kathleen Harrison was its great exponent) which more or less vanished with Mrs Mopp and ITMA. Many years ago, and before she became Mrs Piper, she knew a young policeman called Baxter. Now he’s a detective superintendent and inclined to stand on as much dignity as a virulent head-cold will permit him. She of course is determined to keep the relationship which develops when she reports a body in her boss’ office on the old, informal footing.

For farce to work it needs to be fast-paced with crisp line delivery and, above all, absolute conviction on the part of the players. Chrissie Cotterill certainly enjoys herself as Mrs Piper (a down-market variation on Miss Marple), as does Peter Amory as the suffering Baxter. Jez Edwards sketches in the detective constable who “assists” Baxter while Martyn Stanbridge is Richard Marshall, the boss who’s at first thought to be the victim and later is the prime suspect.

As Marshall is supposed to be someone for whom most people would prefer not to work – more of a firer than a hirer – I would have liked a greater sense of this quality from Stanbridge. Tracy Shaw plays his philandering wife, Michelle Morris his secretary and Gemma Bissix is Vicki Reynolds, one of the office’s more decorative features. Paul David-Gough makes something of Robert Westerby, but not quite enough.


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