I've mentioned previously that the local amateur dramatic society here, the long-established Bridgewater Players, occasionally perform entertaining whodunits at Thelwall Parish Hall, not far from where I live. Through one of their earlier shows, I got to know the playwright Derek Webb, and I recently attended their latest production, The House on the Cliff, by George Batson.
I was particularly intrigued by the title, given that Mortmain Hall, due to be published in April next year, involves - well, a house on a cliff. Suffice to say that the two storylines have nothing else in common - phew! The play concerns Ellen, a young heiress (daughter of a deceased lawyer) who is confined to a wheelchair, although her doctor believes there's nothing really wrong with her. She is looked after by her father's second wife and a housekeeper. When the doctor has to go to France, he calls in a nurse and a second doctor to look after her.
There is an odd aspect of the plot of the play which didn't seem to make sense in legal terms - it concerns the late lawyer's will. And I wasn't the only person to spot the anomaly. The explanation, I suspect, comes from the fact that the play was written by an American and originally set in the US, where the law is different. The action of the version I watched has been transposed to the UK, with the house relocated to a cliff in Kent, overlooking the English Channel. However, whoever amended the script (many years ago, I suspect) would have done better to correct the error - it could have been done quite easily.
I'd never heard of George Batson (1918-77), but Amnon Kabatchnik's invaluable Blood on the Stage reveals that he wrote nine plays, including one called Ramshackle Inn (1944) which enjoyed poor reviews but a good run. Kabatchnik reckons that The House on the Cliff is his most intriguing work, and I certainly enjoyed the performance by the Bridgewater Players. The challenging role of Ellen was particularly well-handled by Maria Marano, while Deborah Harper was a suitably equivocal stepmother and Cat Mercer a breezy nurse. Groups such as the Bridgewater Players deserve a good deal of support, and the first two nights of the three-night run were sold out. I managed to get tickets for the Saturday performance simply because it clashed with Strictly Come Dancing! I was glad I watched the play instead...