The first – but by no means only – wonderful thing I noticed about ‘Natural Causes’ was the set: the talented team at the Apollo have brought to life in every detail the book-lined study of a faded intellectual, personified in the character of Walter Bryce who, as the play begins, is very anxiously playing host to an eccentric individual named – or perhaps not – Vincent Vincent. The latter, it appears, despite his lack of education (“did I tell you I left school at the age of fourteen?”) and background, has the wherewithal to administer a potion inducing death almost immediately with no trace – the victim will appear to have died from ‘Natural Causes’.
You would expect a black comedy based on such a premise, from the pen of the writer of such hits as ‘Rising Damp’ to have twists, turns, miscommunication and plenty of laughs, and indeed the script delivers all this and more.
But the real success of this production rests on the portrayal of each character, and the direction behind it. And director Martin Ward can feel very proud of his work and his team. Steve Reading plays Walter to perfection – nervous yet ready to go through with his dastardly plan which seems to be thwarted at every turn, somehow gaining our sympathy with his predicament. Helen Reading portrays his ‘secretary’ Angie with a Lady Macbeth level of persuasion and taunting: she at least is fully determined to get the outcome she wants.
Kathryn Ward, as Walter’s devoted wife Celia, skilfully gives us a character we simultaneously empathise with – and want to see dead, and David Carr’s Samaritan Withers is suitably fluttery in the face of possible suicide and bewildered by the confusion he encounters as he tries to prevent what Vincent tries to accomplish.
Vincent himself, played with a lovely mixture of confidence and confusion by Steve Taverner, appears to have the whole situation under control – after all, he’s ‘helped’ so many people, and there’s another client in Slough just waiting to die…..but as it turns out, he just might have to wait a bit longer.
To say more would spoil the plot for those who come along to The Apollo next week to see the show: and I really recommend that you do – it is staged from Tuesday 21st to Saturday 25th May inclusive, curtain up 7.30pm. Expect hilarity, confusion – and a lot of plot twists along the way, all of which make for a most entertaining evening!