Jack Poppelwell's BUSYBODY is a typical late sixties British farce (it reminded me of the Ray Cooney plays of the same period). A quick google shows it remains hugely popular play for community theatre around the English-speaking world and its popularity in Norway led to a feature film adaptation in 1970 (titled Skulle det dukke opp flere lik, så er det bare å ringe... which translated online as "Do be about facts appear more alike sÃ¥ is it only Ã¥ call to"). Weird.
There's a murder mystery plot
(read the summary on the publicity page: http://www.theatre.asn.au/production/2008/busybody)
Lighting up this production is Vanessa Trengove's brilliant performance as Mrs Piper, the busybody of the title. She has an Eliza Dolittle accent (put on for the role I was told - fooled me), sharp comic timing and a lovely lovable roguish stage-presence. Mrs Piper is full of opinions, gossip, jokes, asides, a bit of drink, some hysterics and almost psychic knowledge of other characters' motives and actions. Vanessa Trengove doesn't miss a moment and, I suspect, filled in a few extra moments if another actor was slow with a cue or forgot a line.
She's not equalled on stage by anyone else. The character of Police Superintendent Baxter has to endure Mrs Piper's unwanted assistance in solving the case. It's kinda like Betty and Mr Kelly in HEY DAD! Or imagine Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn (if you can imagine Katherine Hepburn playing a cockney cleaner... anyway) There are moments when Kevin Lloyd absolutely gets it: classic comedy jokes like "get Mrs Piper a bodyguard" "Is someone trying to kill her?" "I hope so" boom-tish! At other times Baxter didn't have the necessary pace and strength to be Mrs Piper's straight man in the fast-paced comedy. I'm sure that Kevin Lloyd - in his first principal acting role - will get better with each performance as his confidence and the pace picks up.
The other characters - alive and dead - are all functional to Mrs Piper and Baxter's comedy and everyone does their job. Drew France was particularly good as the handsome well-spoken accountant, loved by all the ladies.
And as for solving the murder-mystery plot, my comprehension was about the same as the English translation of the Norwegian film title above - 80% of the detail and I got the general gist. I think the fault's in the script but it doesn't matter. I didn't care who did it, as long as I could enjoy Mrs Piper working it out.
BUSYBODY is an enjoyable evening at the Padbury Community Hall - which felt reasonably cosy - and worth catching one of the remaining performances this weekend or next, if just to meet, laugh at and laugh with Mrs Piper, the busybody.