When Murder is Funny
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Playwright Steven Gallagher writes in the program notes that “Murder at Ackerton Manor is my tribute to Agatha Christie with a little bit of Mel Brooks thrown in for good measure.” His description is pretty accurate: Yes, there is a dastardly murder but at the same time, some pretty silly stuff happens.
Of course, it all begins on the requisite dark and stormy night, in a very old mansion. Lightning flashes and thunder crashes, when lo and behold, there’s a dead body. The next two hours are spent trying to ascertain the killer. But the way to pinpointing the murderer has many twists and turns.
Three actors play seven parts, and therein lies the humour in the play. Quick costume changes and various accents (some recognizable, some not so much) give us the seven distinct characters, thanks to clever acting.
Arinea Hermans is excellent as Miss Ackerton and the German professor, while Trevor Martin gives us the fascinating Roger Ackerton and the Belgian Interpol Detective Pierre Pierrot. Mitch Wood nearly steals the show as the butler Curtis (This may be a red herring: did the butler do it?), the gardener Sterling, and the lovely southern belle in her striking red dress. There is one more actor on stage, but her speaking is minimal, and she really doesn’t bring much backbone to the part. In fact, her role flops, but you will have to see it to believe it.
The set is well done, making us believe we are in the sitting room of an ancient manor house, and the special effects with sound and light put us in the middle of a thunderstorm.
Gallagher says that he enjoys a silly whodunnit, trying to beat the onstage detective at revealing the killer. Will theatregoers figure out who the murderer is before the onstage detective? I think Gallagher put an extra twist in the tale, making it nearly impossible to identify the killer before the final scene. But, hey, why not make it your challenge and see if you figure out whodunnit at Ackerton Manor.
Murder at the Ackerton Manor continues at the Marble Arts Centre, Tweed, until July 8. Then at the Village Playhouse, Bancroft July 12 to 16. Tickets are available by calling 613-478-6060 or visit https://www.tweedandcompany.com/
Photo: Trevor Martin and Mitch Wood in Murder at Ackerton Manor.
Murder at Ackerton Manor
Written and Directed by Steven Gallagher
Performed by Arinea Hermans, Trevor Martin, Mitch Wood
Produced by Tweed & Co.
The Marble Arts Centre, Tweed, July 6 to 8, 2023
The Village Playhouse, Bancroft, July 12 to 16, 2023
Reviewed by Mary Alderson