There are strange goings on up at the Fitzall estate. The toffee-nosed family’s trusty butler has been bumped off and a strange monkey-shaped beast spotted prowling the woods.

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Local magistrate and keeper of conventionality Major Fitzall isn’t popular down in the village; nor, it sounds, is his batty bohemian wife Violet, unless you count the love-sick butcher.

Their spineless son Fenton and domineering daughter, big game hunter Georgina, don’t help when it comes to narrowing the list of suspects.

Enter lady detective Miss Murgatroyd; but with the bodies soon stacking up and the local inspector completely clueless she’s really going to need her shrewd eye, astute nose and enormous stash of depilatory cream to get to the bottom of this mystery before the traditional summing up scene.

Directed by Eastern Angles Christmas show veterans Julian Harries and Pat Whymark, fans of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will love this affectionate country house murder mystery spoof.

“Although our Christmas shows are always a pastiche of some genre, it tends to be a genre we’re very fond of,” says Julian (pictured).

“It’s a tribute,” adds Pat, who provides original music for the show which they describe humour wise as a bit like the plays what Ernie Wise wrote with dashes of Monty Python, Carry On and The Mighty Boosh.

While full of their trademark physical comedy, locally inspired gags and theatrical invention those who like to follow the clues and try to work out who dunnit won’t be disappointed.

“You’re aware people just come for a jolly night, to hear some jokes and see some daft characters but it does have a plot that makes sense if you care to engage with it. We’ve left clues all the way through.

“It’s jolly but there are some slightly darker moments. We’re not happy if it’s just mucking about; we prefer something that makes sense, it makes it different from a pantomime.”

Anybody who’s caught one of TV’s endless Sherlock Holmes, Poirot or Marple repeats will recognise tiny moments.

Miss Murgatroyd is a definite nod to the latter. Well, I say “herself”.

The other departure, Julian points out, is Miss M is actually a man in a dress, played by Patrick Marlowe, currently tucking into his lunch during a break in rehearsals. How’s he taken to fifties spinster fashion?

“It’s very nice, I’ve taken to it like a duck to water,” smirks Patrick.

“He’s very comfortable... a little too comfortable,” laughs Julian.

Briefly detouring into who is the best Marple – Margaret Rutherford tops the rather too grim Joan Hickson, Geraldine McEwan is easily closest to the books and none of us like Julie MacKenzie’s take on the character – it’s back to Dial M for Murgtroyd.

Pat echoes Julian’s belief there’s an endless appetite for a good murder mystery.

“Everybody’s familiar with the genre and it’s really fun. I’d love to do a real one [murder mystery] I think that’s what we’re going to try to do next.

“It’s always fun to do something new. With pantomime it’s all the traditional stories and that’s what a lot of it depends on, people knowing the story and waiting for all the characters. What we’re doing is introducing new ones but they’re still recognisable types, it’s just a step away.”

The game’s afoot at Ipswich’s Sir John Mills Theatre from November 28-January 12, then Woodbridge’s Seckford Theatre from January 15-26.

For more entertainment news follow me on Twitter @WhatsonWayne

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