The Mill at Sonning
0118 969 8000
Sonning Eye, Reading, RG4 6TY.
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. See the review below.
Perfect Wedding, 28th September to 18th November
By Robin Hawdon. Imagine... A bridegroom wakes in the bridal suite on his wedding morning, with his bride-to-be about to arrive at any moment, and finds beside him – a naked girl. What’s more, an extremely attractive naked girl whom, in the depths of his post stag night hangover, he can’t remotely remember having been introduced to. Imagine also that during the ensuing panic to get the stranger dressed, the bride arrives and the girl is trapped in the bathroom. Imagine further that the only way out of the dilemma is to persuade the best man to pretend that the hidden girl is his girlfriend but that his real girlfriend is to be kept ignorant of the fact! By the time the bride’s parents and half the hotel staff get in on the act the chaos reaches nuclear proportions. This hilarious play moves at the speed of light with a riot a minute that will leave you aching with laughter. The perfect medicine for all those thinking of getting married!
My Fair Lady, 23rd November to 27th January
By Lerner and Loewe. The story of Eliza Dolittle – the Cockney flower girl who speaks in ‘yowls’ and not ‘vowels’, plucked off the streets of London by the arrogant Professor Higgins declaring he can pass her off as a Duchess in six months – has rightfully captivated audiences for decades. Add to this an unforgettable score including songs Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?, On The Street Where You Live, I Could Have Danced All Night and Get Me To the Church On Time and My Fair Lady’s phenomenal success worldwide is readily understood.
The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1st February to 17th March
By Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Charles Baskerville dies in mysterious circumstances. A look of fear and terror on his face. Legend has it there is a curse on the family – a curse in the form of a gigantic, ferocious, glowing Hound of Hell – that brings death to each successive head of the Baskerville family. And when Sir Henry Baskerville returns from overseas to claim his inheritance and property on the treacherous terrain of darkest Dartmoor, he calls on the renowned Sherlock Holmes to help him solve the mystery of his uncle’s violent death. Is there really a revenge-seeking Hound? Or are there other evil motives at work? Holmes and Watson’s most chilling case is brought imaginatively to the stage in the style of the West End hit The 39 Steps. This legendary plot has been given a new life by father and son team, Simon and Tam Williams. You will be shocked. And scared. As well as amused. And entertained. As this intriguing story full of horror and thrills unfolds before you.
Reviews of Spider's Web
6th July to 26th August 2017.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Christie's web of deceit
1954 mystery thriller directed Brian Blessed-style
Spider's Web, at the Mill at Sonning, from Thursday, July 6, to Saturday, August 26
You might think that Spider's Web was written for director Brian Blessed – a comedy thriller with plenty of scope for additional jokes and put-ons.
In actual fact, it was written for movie star Margaret Lockwood, who requested from Agatha Christie a play suitable for her first appearance in the West End, with a part for her friend Wilfred Hyde-White and her young daughter Julia. Cynics might suspect that Lockwood thought Christie owed her a favour or two…
As it went, Hyde-White turned it down, but Lockwood had a big success as Clarissa. Four years after the 1954 London premiere, a very young Brian Blessed, in his first job as an ASM, was seeking props for a production at the respected Nottingham Playhouse and was being helped by the author herself.
In 2017, BB was not going to miss an opportunity to enhance the 50s comedy thriller in his own style. His voice was heard over the sound system before act I, scene 1, reciting rhymes about bogeymen and such during the performance and even signing off after the final curtain call, asking in his best Alfred Hitchcock- style voice not to reveal the ending as "we've only got one".
The plot was cobbled together from four earlier Christie pieces, telling the tale of Clarissa and her Foreign Office husband Sir Henry, played by Nick Barclay, who rent a country house at a fraction of the usual cost from criminals, intent on placing someone named Brown in the house.
They have to settle for Hailsham-Brown – Henry and Clarissa's name – but when she discovers a body in the living room, everything starts to get very complicated – as it does with Christie plays. No doubt aided and abetted by their director, most of the cast began to ham it up merrily.
Joanna Brookes, as Mildred the eccentric gardener, is so full of expansive gestures and booming voice that at first I thought she might be BB in drag. Eric Carte, Hugo Birch, Tim Faulkner and Luke Barton all latched on to bits of comedy business in the course of gradually unmasking the murderer.
Esme Seber was convincing in the Julia Lockwood role, as the daughter of the house, and Alexander Neal had a fine old time as Constable Jones... or was it Pc Plod? Three central characters played it straight and this helped make the play work… sort of.
Melanie Gutteridge gave a nicely- paced performance as Clarissa, matched by George Telfer – very believable as Uncle Roily, as was Noel White's police inspector and everything was – amazingly – properly resolved at the end.
And sitting on the end of the back row of the stalls, a certain Mr Blessed looked quite content.
For more details
see the Mill's web site at www.millatsonning.com.
Reviews in the Archive
Improbable Fiction (March 2017)
Dead Simple (January 2017)
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)