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'Double act' sparkles in whodunit comedy

REVIEW by Allan McCallion
The Falcon Players' Mask of Moriarty opened at Stanford Hall on Wednesday last week and, as expected, delivered what was anticipated and more.

Of course there were the well adapted stage settings, periods of great hilarity, long stretches of foot shuffling 'get-on-with-it' plot filling, more than occasional prompting, acting that ranged from good to indifferent, a few silly costumes and a plot thicker than the london smog that smothered the opening set.

mask_of_moriartyThese elements, common at any amateur venture, set the scene, but some of the more positive points would prove a little more elusive.

The plot focused on the task of Sherlock Holmes (Keith Hague) and Dr Watson (Stuart Bailey) to identify the perpetrators of the murders of the servant girl Alice Binns and, later, of the policeman who had been at the scene. Moriarty (who else?) is implicated in there somewhere, but as in all good mysteries we were to encounter the essential red herrings, double identities and misleading evidence. But one overall did not expect the overlong and over explained solution to it all.

But the script did offer dozens of great one-liners and cliches, enough repeating catch phrases to put Allo Allo to shame and samples of tasty satire aimed at the ineptitude of the British copper (Victorian ones I'm sure), the Americans ("a primitive place where violence is unknown") and the fairer sex ("if only women were like real people?").

Outshining every single occurrence, though, was the wonderful rapport between Hague and Bailey as Watson and Holmes. This pair should develop a dialogue and take themselves off on tour. Hague's sheer volume of material perhaps consumed half the play and his banter with Bailey was well scripted, timed to perfection and played without fault.

Lawrence Holmes, in a dual role as the constable and the landlord in the seriously dire 'den of vice' scene, was another winner, along with Marion Knell as the American impostress and Norman Hockley as Herring (and producer).

Katherine Heygate did her best as Lily, a good time girl, but the role seemed irrelevant. Barry Lockwood was convincingly scatty as Lord Melmouth but the rest of the cast, although in the right places at the right times, did little to write home about.

One glorious 10 minute spell in the third scene offered so much fun and frivolity that, had it continued, I would have needed to have my sides re-stitched, but it did not, and as the pace flagged it suddenly happened! The loudest ever fake gunshot in the history of theatre lifted the audience as one - about three inches or so! Talk about grabbing your attention. The Falcons as a unit should be pleased with the overall output and when they return with Run For Your Wife, I for one will be there. But who did it? Well, I should not really tell you, but it was the one with the....argh!