The Mill at Sonning
0118 969 8000
Sonning Eye, Reading, RG4 6TY.
Improbable Fiction, 16th March to 6th May
'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house sat six members of Pendon Writers’ Circle. All suffering the same predicament - Writer’s block! Jess writes bodice rippers. Grace creates children’s stories. Vivvi has completed her 6th crime novel – unpublished of course! Clem is a sci-fi fanatic. Brevis is adapting The Pilgrim’s Progress into – wait for it – a musical! “You’ve got your imagination, haven’t you? To fall back on? You can make up worlds of your own, can’t you?” declares Arnold, the group’s chairman. Let’s pool our ideas, he says, and create a joint work. Oh no! No! Can’t do that, is the stubborn reaction from the non-writing writers. Definitely not! Until - in the best corny tradition of thrillers - a raging storm ensues. A dramatic clap of thunder strikes. And all the various fictions of the wannabe writers’ spring startlingly and vividly to life. Hold onto your hats as this hilarious comedy zigzags from Victorian melodrama, to 1930’s detective cliff hanger, to extreme science fiction fantasy – with a touch of Sid the Squirrel thrown in! Result? A side-splitting thoroughly bonkers example of what can happen when you let Alan Ayckbourn’s imagination run riot.
Don’t Dress for Dinner, 11th May to 1st July
With his wife out of town, an alibi from his best friend Robert, and Suzette, a Cordon Bleu cook, lined up to prepare gourmet delights, debonair Bernard thinks he’s planned the perfect romantic weekend for his glamorous French mistress, Suzanne. But when Bernard’s wife, Jacqueline, hears that Robert - ooh, la, la - is visiting for the weekend, she decides to stick around for a surprise tryst of her own. Setting the stage for a side-splitting collision course of mistaken identities. Suzanne becomes the cook, Suzette becomes the lover, the friend is bewildered, the wife is suspicious and an evening of hilarious confusion ensues as Bernard and Robert improvise at breakneck speed.
Spider's Web, 6th July to 26th August
"Suppose I were to come downstairs one morning and find a dead body lying here, what would I do?" wonders Clarissa. And lo and behold, as is the way with all good Agatha Christie thrillers, she soon finds out. Clarissa has a vivid imagination but not even she could be prepared for the moment she stumbles upon a bloody corpse. Desperate to dispose of the body before her husband comes home with an important foreign politician - a man on his way to secret talks at 10 Downing Street! - Clarissa persuades her three house guests to become accessories and accomplices. But then the web of deceit becomes even more tangled as a mysterious phone-call tips off the police and brings the determined Inspector Lord to the scene. Clarissa soon realises he is convinced that one of them is the killer and finds her talent for storytelling put to the test as she fights to keep her friends and family from suspicion. At the same time her own life is in dire danger as the search for the real murderer comes closer and closer to being revealed. Arguably Agatha Christie’s most enthralling and entertaining thriller.
Review of Dead Simple
19th January to 11th March 2017.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
The Mill's tense thriller inspired by Edgar Allan Poe
Dead Simple, at The Mill at Sonning, until Saturday, March 11
What is your worst ever nightmare? Terminal illness, drowning, giant spiders running riot in the bathroom, perhaps. Or maybe none of the above? How high on the list would being buried alive rate? Very high for most of us, I suspect, and this theme was the starting point for author Peter James after he read Edgar Allan Poe's The Premature Burial and eventually came up with this snappy thriller.
The action starts with Michael, played by Lewis Collier, and his friend and partner Mark – a lively performance by Matt Milburn – talking about his forthcoming wedding to the beautiful Ashley, given a split personality reading by Louise Stewart.
The stag party is about to commence and Michael's pals, if you can call them that, plan to bury him in the woods, in a coffin, with only a torch, walkie talkie radio and an inserted breathing tube for company.
They do so, planning to leave him to suffer for just under an hour but then something goes terribly wrong. The wedding pranksters' car crashes, killing all the occupants, and that's as much of the plot as I can reveal without spoiling it for future audiences.
James's story, with Keith Myers' atmospheric direction and fine use of sound and lighting effects, keeps the tension tightly in focus and the little gasps of shock-horror, all through, from some members of the audience, indicate they succeed in keeping everyone on the edge of their seats.
The five-location composite set, designed by Alex Marker, is also worthy of praise for ingenuity. A large cast all did very well in their contributions towards the final result, with strong, well-observed performances from Louise Stewart as Ashley, Martin Stanbridge as Bradley, her uncle and Vincent Jerome and Gwynfor Jones as the two police detectives.
Specifically for productions of this kind, sound and lighting tend to be very important towards the success of the action so a special bouquet is awarded to soundman Liam Hawes and lighting designer Matthew Bliss.
For more details
see the Mill's web site at www.millatsonning.com.
Reviews in the Archive
High Society (November 2016)
The Hollow (July 2016)
Last of the Red Hot Lovers (March 2016)
The Perfect Murder (January 2016)
Stepping Out (November 2015)
Round and Round the Garden (October 2015)
Love, Loss, and What I Wore (August 2015)
Killjoy (May 2015)
Educating Rita (January 2015)
Last Confessions of a Scallywag (July 2014)