Enterprising drama teacher Jon Parker has spun real-life stories from colonial life in the 1930s in East Indies into a murder-mystery.
He has drawn on tales which he heard while spending time in Indonesia, including those of military shootings and of servants being assigned to look after English officers’ family pets.
Working with his students at Henry Fanshawe School in Dronfield, Jon has crafted the play Enmity which is enjoying its premiere performances this week.
A capacity audience at the school last night (Wednesday) was given the opportunity to try to figure out who the murderer was during the interval.
The cast was quizzed by the audience at the end of the performance on the development of the show and their characters. This was as interesting as the play itself as it showed just how much hard work had gone into the production, not least on transforming Derbyshire voices into cut-glass accents. Olivia Ford, playing leading lady Amelia George, said that she had drawn influences from Downton Abbey to perfect her pronunciation.
The production is every bit as elegant as Downton with fabulous evening gowns, summer frocks and tweed jackets.
Both acts get off to a dramatic start with the cast seemingly frozen in time as they stand stock still before the action begins.
Without giving the game away for those who have yet to see it, the action revolves around an upper-class family who have gathered to say their goodbyes to the head of the household, an army major. His military career in the East Indies is played out through flashbacks, a life which comes full circle with dramatic consequences.
There are brilliant performances from leading man Eddie Butterfield, playing the cold, charmless Major Donald George; Olivia Ford as the major’s long-suffering wife Amelia, Abi McClean as the cool Fiona, Annabel Biggin and Jasmine Bovill as the major’s grasping and loud sisters Frances and Catherine and Sam McElhattan and Dylan Lambert as the officers under the major’s command.
A flapper-style dance from Annabel Biggin and Abi McClean, mood-enhancing lighting, blackouts and gunshots contribute to one of the finest plays that I’ve seen at the school.
Addressing the audience last night, assistant headteacher Andrew Marsh commended the production as “intricate, interesting and involved.”
Enmity has its final performance at the school on Friday, November 30, at 7pm.