Dead Man's Hand - performed February 1989

By Seymour Matthews

Performed with the kind permission of Samuel French

Director - Dennis Murfitt


(in order of appearance)

Jennifer / Kate Clare Morris
Brian / Martin Nigel Lister
David / Derek Dennis Murfitt
Corinne / Angela Jill Laurie
Franco Adrian Bolton
Pamela Nicola Townsend

Production Team

Jude Hussey, Jenny Rollings, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Dennis Murfitt, Greg Garrad, Alison Brett, Val Taylor, Gill Baxter, Patience Ling, Viv Wheatley, and other volunteers not mentioned.

The Play

This captivating thriller employs a play within a play theme in a singularly exciting manner. At first, it seems to be the usual "Agatha Christie" type play two couples lured to a remote Italian villa to be murdered one by one. It is only when this play is well advanced that we learn we are watching actors rehearsing their own murder mystery. It is shortly after this, when two of these actors have been murdered in the same manner as the characters in their own play, that the twists and turns begin to tease the audience. Who is the murderer and what do those about to be murdered have in common? Yet even this ploy is not what it at first seems! An intriguing final twist unravels the real reason for the whole charade. All in all, an enticingly clever piece of work!


Strange that this enterprising society always looking for theatrical fare of substance, should have chosen this particular mediocre example of the thriller genre. In imitation Agatha Christie vein, six journeymen actors are lured to a remote house to rehearse and give one performance of a play to their unknown employer. One by one their numbers are decreased as murders, in reverse parallel to their stage situation, ostensibly take place. Hardly original to say the least!
Not so much a “who-dunit” as a “who’s behind it”, the first act is all talk, precious little action – what there is, is offstage! It is, frankly, boring enough to send people to sleep. One or two actually did! The second half, with its cleverly created thunder-and-lightning and the cowled Mnemesis figure looming melodramatically on the central doorway, wakes things up a good deal and there is some on-stage action for the players to tackle.

Amateurs playing professional actors are usually on a hiding to nothing, and its says much for the cast that they managed to achieve the level of credibility that they did. Claire Morris, late of Mersea, is clearly a find for the society, clear and unforced, with a lovely husky texture to the voice, her Kate is strongly projected and, to all intents and purposes, keenly involved. I just wish her Manningtree debut was in something more worthwhile. Nigel Lister is tall and personable as Martin, and works his socks off to invest the cardboard character with some semblance of flesh and blood. But his seemingly incurable habit of positioning himself smack in front of his director – Dennis Murfitt coming late to the part of Derek – wherever and whenever that formidable personage sough clearance, can scarcely have endeared himself in that quarter! We see all too little of Jill Laurie’s Angela, who in her alter ego as Corinne catches just the right affluent common touch. Nicola Townsend’s general dogsbody is at her best when looking like a rabbit mesmerised by a stoat. Adrian Bolton does most of what can be done with Franco Frank.

The set, the lounge of an Italian villa is quite splendid with its Art Deco interior, marble fireplace and plashing fountain and Bruce Emeny’s lighting as always is excellent. But the feeling of massive effort wasted on inferior material is inescapable.
The Company – and its faithful audience – deserve better than this!
Jimmy James

Photo Shoot

If you have any photos from this production, then please let us know.