Agatha Christie mystery launches Midlands theatre company

The Upstagers Dramatic Club

With a 22-strong cast under his direction, former Royal Shakespeare Company actor Paul Spence has chosen a classic Agatha Christie mystery as the first production for an exciting new theatre company in the KZN Midlands; the “Upstagers Dramatic Club”.

The Diamond Snow is the first play by the Upstagers Dramatic Club at The Schlesinger Theatre, Michaelhouse, but will certainly not be the last. Spence, the founding director of this new company, aims to create ongoing work during Michaelhouse school holidays.

Downton Abbey World

In The Diamond Snow, the scene is set in midwinter, 1936 at Cockington Hall, Berkshire, as the family come home for Christmas. It is a typical Downton Abbey world, with family, guests, staff and plenty of goings-on upstairs and downstairs. The story centres on an eccentric patriarch, who made his fortune on the Kimberley diamond mines, and who now has his own devious motives for inviting his entire family home for Christmas.

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In usual Agatha Christie style, there are also unexpected guests, including a young lad fresh from the South African veld and a Berlin cabaret artiste who sings in the style of Marlene Dietrich. A murder on Christmas Eve sets the cat among the pigeons and family, guests and staff all appear to be implicated. Indeed, it appears that the perfect crime has been committed and even the local police are at a loss until a certain Miss Jane Marple arrives through the midwinter snow to complete the jigsaw.

Drawing on a life-time’s theatre experience (which includes seven years with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon and London, and having acted and directed in theatres from Edinburgh to Copenhagen and Vienna to Tokyo) Spence has freely adapted his new play, The Diamond Snow.

The play is based on an original novel by Agatha Christie, and is written to suit the talents of the cast who hail from an area stretching from Hilton to Balgowan, Nottingham Road and Rosetta. Rehearsals are currently under way.

Meander Chronicle home

Leading the cast is internationally experienced actor Mark Mulder, recently seen in Manhunt! on SABCTV, accompanied by Timothy Redpath, who was awarded the Brett Goldin Bursary to the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2012. The multi-talented cast range in age from “80-something” ex-Butlins “Redcoat” from the UK, Peter Ball, who plays the Butler – to 18-year old St John’s pupil Lilu Woods who plays the Housemaid. Lilu was recently seen as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at the Schlesinger.

The cast of The Diamond Snow also features current Michaelhouse masters Mike Thomson and Leon Roets, two former drama teachers in Di Smythe (Laddsworth) and Elmarie Verster (Cordwalles), current drama teacher Nicolene Badenhorst (Clifton) – as well as the owner of the legendary “Barbz Café” of Nottingham Road, Barbara Zietsman, who plays the housekeeper.

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The Schlesinger Theatre, Michaelhouse, invited Spence to be the founding director of the new theatre company for the following:
• To encourage and inspire a passion for theatre in the KZN Midlands
• To grow and develop the audience of the Schlesinger Theatre
• To invite patrons of the theatre to play an active role in keeping theatre alive
• To extend the Schlesinger Theatre programme into school holidays
• To provide classic and nostalgic theatrical entertainment for local Midlands audiences

The Director and Cast of The Diamond Snow aim to give their audience a hugely entertaining midwinter theatrical heart-warmer and audiences will enjoy a welcome glass of festive gluhwein on arrival, to bat off the winter chills.

Oh, What a Lovely War!

Showing at the Schlesinger after The Diamond Snow is Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What a Lovely War!, running from 12 to 15 August. To sign up for Schlesinger Theatre news email theatre@michaelhouse.org or follow the link on our Facebook page, Schlesinger Theatre.

In brief

Title: The Diamond Snow
Venue: Schlesinger Theatre, Michaelhouse
Date and times: Thursday 12, Friday 13 and Saturday 14 July 2018 at 7pm with a matinee on Saturday 14 July at 2pm
Tickets: R80 (senior persons and scholars R50)
Bookings: (Pre-book) www.tickethut.co.za/michaelhouse

Enquiries: Schlesinger Theatre: William le Cordeur: 082 068 7734 / willec@michaelhouse.org
Director: Paul Spence: 084 3411742 / plspence7@gmail.com