Dead Mans Hand – Noda Review

Wadhurst Dramatic Club
Dead Man’s Hand – a Thriller by Seymour Matthews
Wadhurst Commemoration Hall
Friday 25th October 2013
Director: Richard Bruce

Seymour Matthews has created a particularly complex whodunit with a most unexpected conclusion. It is a play within a play, when the mysterious Mr Konakis lures two couples to a remote Italian villa only to be murdered one by one! Only as we advanced through the first Act do we learn we are actually watching actors rehearsing their own murder mystery. Two of the actors have been murdered in the same manner as the character in their own play. During the many twists and turns I confess I did at times get a little lost. Some amusing moments, certainly a very wordy piece with sometimes repetitive characters explanations pointing out similarities between the play and their own situations, nevertheless a gripping tale.

FRONT OF HOUSE: The Northovers were in their usual position meeting and greeting, giving as always a friendly feel in the hall. I was impressed by the smart new club blue waistcoats with its embroidered Club logo, which gave immediate recognition of helpers. Using our computer printout tickets – I confess I still do not quite understand how the numbering worked – we were directed to well set and decorated tables. A lovely chicken pasta interval supper was served, followed by a delicious meringue sweet. Thank you to the Catering department headed by Diane Wale with her team of helpers.

PROGRAMME: Again a good firm A5 programme this time in black with blood red hand prints and white paint dropping lettering gave a nice sinister look and gave all appropriate information with interesting cast biogs and photos on the back cover. Your young programme sellers were very persuasive and did a very good PR job.

SCENERY: Colin and Nance Hand once again designed and created an excellent elegant interior of an Italian villa using pastel paintwork giving a light and airy feel. The stage was neatly and comprehensively dressed, with Pam Francis in charge of a good set of props including the interesting drinks table, with good use of table lamps.

MAKE UP/HAIR: Amanda Dann assisted the cast, who all looked particularly natural and well groomed.

COSTUME: The cast provided easy on the eye costumes and were assisted once again by Jill Haskell.

SOUND/LIGHTING: John Bush designed an effective and atmospheric lighting plot and it was good to see assistants Craig Watson and Jan Bamberger learning the ropes. Peter Bush was in charge of sound with some good ‘noises off’ creating the right feel.

THE PRODUCTION: Under the tight direction of Richard Bruce the six actors developed their dual characters well, by no means an easy task. At times there was a lack of pace and some help was required by the prompt. However, the characters were believable and held the audience in suspense. Good fluid movement throughout from all the actors. A strong confident performance came from Heather Lewis-Plant as Jennifer/Kate supported by Russ Kirton as failed businessman Brian/Martin. A very steady Adam Lewis-Plant put over the difficult emotional role of David/Derek and giving some contrast Merlin Beedell played the Italian Franco/stage director convincingly. Newcomer Stephanie Belcourt played a nice little cameo role of Corrine – soon to be corpse in Act 1 making the surprise reappearance as Angela in Act 2. Cath Atkinson, another newcomer to the group, excelled in the part of Pam who used some wonderful facial expressions, the slightly neurotic stage manager who also held a secret. This play certainly kept you guessing ‘til the very end, but I’ll keep mum!

Thank you Wadhurst for your hospitality and I hope you had a larger audience for Saturday’s performance something that your efforts deserved.

Anne Lawson
Regional Representative, NODA South East, District 3