Slow burner more suited for a play on the radio

St Nicolas Players in Disposing of the Body at South Holland Centre, Spalding. ANL-140318-095230001
St Nicolas Players in Disposing of the Body at South Holland Centre, Spalding. ANL-140318-095230001

Nick Fletcher, director of the St Nicolas Players, certainly set the bar high with his dramatisation of Hugh Whitemore’s mystery Disposing of the Body.

A small cast, some of whom were familiar from shows put on by Spalding Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society (SADOS), were weaved into an intricate plot involving the mental disintegration of Henry Preece after an affair with his secretary.

Preece (Jed Laxton) seemed to have it all - loyal wife, high-flying son, a country home and a happy retirement to look forward to.

But in steps Alexander and Joanna Barley (Martin Tyrrell and Jules Jones) whose The Good Life-style neighbourliness suddenly turns nasty when Henry and Joanna have a passionate, sexual relationship.

This stemmed from the most innocent of circumstances after Henry invited Joanna to help him catalogue and document his record collection.

From there, the couple steal every chance open to them to have sex together anywhere and everywhere, including the marital bed of Henry and his wife Angela Preece (Arline Evenden)

The play never makes clear whether Angela eventually works out that her husband is “doing the dirty” on her but it’s impossible not to deduce that she has her suspicions.

Angela finally drops a bombshell on Henry when fails to come back from a shopping trip to London and the rest of the play is about Henry’s guilt and eventual self-destruction.

He starts to unravel at a country hotel where he and Joanna had met in secret previously, only this time it ends with the guilty husband being unceremoniously kicked out of the hotel by the manager, ending up with Henry in hospital.

The Tales of the Unexpected tone of the play continues when Henry admits his lust to Alexander, scarring their relationship and eventually leading to a break-up with Joanna.

Even his long lost son Ben (Kevin Palmer), who comes home from the USA after hearing of his mum’s disappearance, gets to the point when he can’t escape his dad’s company soon enough as self-pity and remorse turn Henry into a social pariah.

The play ends tragically with Henry reacting to a possible sighting of his wife and ending up in a fatal collision with a lorry.

This slow burner of a play surprisingly kept the South Holland Centre audience’s attention but while all the actors did well with a challenging script, you couldn’t help but think that Disposing of the Body is much better suited for to an afternoon slot on the radio.

Theatre review by Winston Brown

Disposing of the Body

South Holland Centre

Spalding