In a leaking, windswept country house resides Mortimer Chalke, a bitter composer of sorts who spends his days becoming increasingly exasperated with his equally aspirant and unsuccessful family, and in particular his sister’s life-long ‘friend,’ the eccentric wannabe sleuthster Norris.
The former insurance investigator Norris longs for a real murder. Mortimer announces one day – out of thinly veiled spite – that he intends to leave the much-loved family home to Wendy, a former music pupil he last saw 20 years earlier. Wendy, of course, has also been invited to stay.
Norris suddenly, unexpectedly has his wish granted as Mortimer presents his younger siblings with a textbook motive for murder.
So the scene is set for Sheffield’s Denys Edwards Players, who performed Alan Ayckbourn’s It Could Be Anyone Of Us at the Library Theatre this week.
With the stasis and frustration of a Chekhov drama, the intrigue of Agatha Christie and the farce of Fawlty Towers, It Could Be Anyone Of Us is certainly not your average play.
Many of Scarborough-based writer Alan Ayckbourn’s plays experiment with themes surrounding chance and uncertainty. It Could Be Anyone Of Us is no different. Ayckbourn has written three separate endings to the play. In the opening scene, the disaffected family attempt to engineer a sense of harmony through a game of cards. For the actors, this is the seminal moment- whoever draws the highest card is the murderer for the evening, and the rest of the cast have to adapt accordingly.
But Denys Edwards Players accepted the challenge with commendable gusto, producing a well rehearsed and coherent piece of theatre with confident performances ably assisted by an authentic, functional set and slick, unfussy direction from day time I.T consultant Phil George.
John Castell’s Norris was undoubtedly the star of the show, making Basil Fawlty seem like the model of normality and moderation. Castell’s performance seemed to act as a catalyst for his fellow performers, and he was consistently involved in the play’s funniest moments.
More than a spoof than a character piece, special mention must also be made to Graham Seaton’s irate, taunting and highly-strung Mortimer, and Mark Morrell’s idiosyncratic and closeted Brinton, who is the unexpected architect of the most tender moments the play offers.