‘Prepare to Meet Thy Tomb’ is a comedy-mystery thriller from Norman Robbins. The third in the trilogy of the ‘Tomb Family’, three plays about the ‘family that plays together, slays together’. Norman was a newspaper reporter in Yorkshire, who became an amateur actor. This led to his taking up play writing around 1950, with this play being published in 2010.
The two-and-a-half-hour shows, with an updated script, are being performed by The Garrick Theatre Company, and can be seen at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00 pm, until 13th August. The Sunday matinées are on 31st July and 7th August at 2.00 pm.
The set is the oak panelled lounge of the Monument House Hotel in Norfolk. The hotel is under renovation and is soon to re-open as a Health Farm.
On one wall there is a set of patio doors, at the back a massive Gothic-style, Jacobean wooden fireplace, and to the right a door leading to the main passageway and kitchen. There are two settees and a couple of armchairs. In a house like this there had to be a palm in a pot standing on a whatnot. This most impressive set was created with a great deal of hard work, by Keith and Heather Abbott. The oil painting of the matriarch was by Carol Koppler. Wendy Goodwin and her backstage crew of Marion West and Karl Cechner had plenty to keep them occupied.
It is a foggy night in February. In Monument House, the family home of the Tombs since 1784, are two of the remaining descendants of the Borgias, quaint Aunt Hecuba (Kerry Goode) and her warped, teenage niece, Drusilla (Hayley Derwort). They are discussing the good old days, and the various guest who have died in their mansion.
There is a loud knocking on the front door, and local businessman, Sir Beverley (Keith Abbott) bursts in. He is furious that a large financial agreement with a Tomb relative had not been carried out, and he is now in big trouble.
Just as things are getting really nasty, a famous writer, Philippa Collins (Sarah House) who is fed up with driving in the dense fog, arrives with her dippy secretary, Daphne (Heather Abbott) looking for a room. They are convinced they were being followed by another car. Feeling the cold, Sir Beverley’s driver, Anthony (Morgan Hyde) comes into the house for a warm drink, bringing with him a tall stranger he noticed wandering around outside.
This unusual guest turned out to be a TV presenter, Quentin Danesworth (Graham Miles) who seems to know a great deal, perhaps too much, about the house’s history. As he is talking to Hecuba’s friend, Cecily, from the village (Jenny Trestrail), a honeymoon couple arrive. The husband is fawning Robert (Richard Hadler) and his bimbo wife, with bouncing attributes, Miranda (Kylie Calwell) who is also a TV personality.
With so many undesirable visitors, the name and reputation of the Borgias must be maintained.
Geoff Holt’s lighting and sound design captured the mood of the spooky venue perfectly; and the lighting and sound effects, that required split second timing, were carried out impeccably by Sandra Cechner.
The esteemed director, Lynne Devenish, was generous enough to take on two or three actors who had little or no experience, or had been off the stage for a few years. It always adds extra work, but the whole cast drew together immaculately, giving us a flawless who-dun-it that totally fooled me. However, with their superb stage presence, Kerry Goode and her play nemesis, Keith Abbott were exceptional.
The final curtain call gave a new meaning to ‘curtains for all’ or ‘the actor died on stage’.
A well-presented play, that takes a little bit of concentration, but the very varied and unusual characters brightened up the whole drama. Along with a few directorial innuendos, this comedy gave us numerous laughs. You will die laughing.