Theatre Review - Natural Causes, Chorley Little Theatre

Andy Burke, Rachel Brennan, David Walker'CADOS' play, Natural Causes.
Andy Burke, Rachel Brennan, David Walker'CADOS' play, Natural Causes.

This latest CADOS production, ‘Natural Causes’ by Eric Chappell (perhaps best-known for his ‘Rising Damp’ TV script), drew large audiences to the Little Theatre last week.

They could not have been disappointed as an excellent cast delivered what has long been the hallmark of CADOS – a thoroughly professional performance.

The play is a dark comedy with an arranged ‘suicide’ as its theme and much of the humour centres on the fact that husband Wayne understood it was his wife Celia who intended to depart this life, only to discover (painfully) that under the terms of a nuptial suicide pact he was expected to go too!

Waiting in ultimate frustration to enjoy the fruits of his freedom is his amorous young secretary, Angie, who can barely contain her eagerness for the love-making to begin.

Manipulating these three characters is Vincent, the representative of an aptly-named company ‘Exodus’ which assists (at appropriate – and escalating - cost !) those preparing for suicide.

David Walker is wonderfully cast as Vincent, a dapper individual combining the lugubriousness of his trade with apparent gentle concern for the agitated Wayne, splendidly played by Andy Burke.

Walker delivers the wittiest lines with superb timing and his interplay with the twitchy, angst-ridden Burke is a delight.

Rachel Brennan’s Angie is a forward young madam anxious to banish Wayne’s dithering over the formalities of his wife’s demise, while Moira Cook as the doomed Celia adeptly transforms an understated early role into one of understandable final fury.

Completing a fine quintet of performers, John Stevenson as Withers the Samaritan keeps the laughter coming through repeated failure to retain anonymity and conceal his own name, while seeking to counsel the troubled Wayne.

Much of the comic business concerns the method of dispatch – poisoned drink.

To the viewer, it’s like watching the three-card trick, as glasses are surreptitiously switched and interchanged, held to the lips and then at the crucial moment put down.

All this is achieved with aplomb, so much so that it requires concentration on the part of the audience to be sure whose drink has actually been spiked.

In the end, Celia survives, reviving unexpectedly after appearing to be dead and gone; not so Vincent, who fatally picks up the wrong glass in the final scene.

The production was enhanced by a superbly-designed set (how often do we say this of CADOS?) and also by well-chosen atmospheric music between scenes. Tuesday’s audience, audibly involving themselves with gasps at the cliff-hanger moments, loved it.