A Haunting Tale
The Late Edwina Black by William Dinner and William Morum at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.
The Late Edwina Black by William Dinner and William Morum at Colchester Mercury until tonight .
Dear old Edwina has been haunting Amberwood House since 1949, chilling and thrilling the marrows of generations but for some strange reason she and I have not met until now. She's showing her age a bit in melodramatic moments but, if you don't know what's coming, it's a cleverly constructed play that holds you tight.
Edwina is only very recently late, in fact she's hardly cold, still up in her bedroom awaiting the undertakers, while downstairs her quietly overjoyed hubby Gregory is in the arms of Lisa, Edwina's paid companion of seven years.
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It is never a smart thing for the master of the house to be caught in an affair with one of the servants because this is 1895, sexy secrets are harder to keep and, if there's even just a whiff of suspicion of something underhand, there's always someone ready to rat you out to Scotland Yard.
So it proves here and Detective Inspector Martin, tipped off that Edwina's death was not due to natural causes, duly arrives to spoil the lovers' plans for an exciting holiday in Italy once Gregory comes into his rich wife's money.
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The big house is Edwina's. Greg is a stolid poorly paid schoolmaster reliant on his wife for the little luxuries of life; Lisa is younger, a typical ladies companion, thrilled to be in love and to be loved.
Edwina, bedridden and ill for some time, has treated them both like dirt and, although not exactly cheering her death, Greg and Lisa are happy that they will soon be able to marry and lead normal lives. But there's a ghostly chill in the air. It sometimes seems that she is watching them.
Then the inspector puts a post mortem spanner in the works. Edwina, he says, was poisoned. Somebody popped arsenic in her drinks and he is going to hang around until he discovers who did it. And, as Greg and Lisa analyse the evidence and the clues, it becomes evident that one or other of them must be guilty.
Both are hiding secrets which come out as first Greg accuses Lisa and then she turns on him. Either one could have done it but it takes the deduction skills of Scotland Yard to find the killer - and it's a neat surprise.
Stephen Beckett and Georgina Sutton have some great spiteful moments as the disenchanted lovers and Stephen McGann is the laid-back, calculating cop with Katie Evans as Edwina's faithful housekeeper who blows the whistle on her boss and starts a murder hunt.