2024 - Death by Detective

Death By Detective review by Sarah Mapleston - May 2024.

Russell Players once again hosted an entertaining evening consisting of a tasty light supper and a play that captivated the audience’s attention across three nights. ‘Death by Detective (Corpsed by a Copper)’ by David Pemberton was directed by Mitch Mitchell and demonstrated the talents of the Russell Players’ actors and backstage crew.  

Clever casting enabled the characters of the play to shine to the best of their ability. Harriet Brush (Sheila Partington), a Doctor of Psychology helped narrate the story together with Donald Bucket (Trish Harris), a detective who would give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money. Alongside these characters, you had Helen Stoner (Lisa Johnston), a young woman in distress who expertly retold the story leading up to her sister’s murder involving seamless costume and scene changes. Hawkins, a newspaper seller, and Bob, a handyman, (Henry Finney) were characters that commanded the stage with their strong accents, stage presence and kept the play moving. Mrs. Dobson and Julia Stoner were both characterised well by Louisa Nozay, especially when Julia met her death and Mrs. Dobson suffered from a fir tree allergy.  Dr Grimsby Deadwood was skilfully portrayed by Glyn Marshall who adopted a convincing intimidating persona. His untimely death was celebrated (albeit quietly) by all.

The hard work that had been put into producing this play was evident. The costumes were a delight, the lighting and sound operation and scene changes were excellent throughout. Well done to all involved and to Mitch Mitchell for directing an enjoyable play.

Sarah Mapleston

Review of “Death by Detective (Corpsed by a Copper)” performed by the Russell Players at Swallowfield Parish Hall  - 19th May, 2024 by Andy Witting

The curtains open and we are transported to 1920s London, to the study of Donald Bucket, a former police inspector with methods and insights of a comic Sherlock Holmes. The scene is set for a delightful parody of Conan-Doyle’s whodunnit “The Speckled Band”, full of intrigue, humour and more than a touch of the absurd.

Bucket and his sceptically loyal associate, Harriet Brush, are approached by the elegant Helen Stoner who is experiencing a repeat of past events which led to the tragic death of her sister, Julia. As the plot unfolds, we follow Bucket and Brush to Woking, where seemingly supernatural happenings plague the home of Helen’s step-father, Dr. Grimsby Deadwood. Ghostly occurrences, eerie noises, and a tumultuous thunderstorm keep us on the edge of our seats.  

Under the splendid direction of Mitch Mitchell the suspense builds. Trish Harris brings Bucket to life with furrowed brow, hilarious facial expressions and droll Holmesian insights. The humour is sustained through interactive banter with Brush (Sheila Partington) who delivers amusing narration and asides with immaculate timing. Helen, played by the charming Lisa Johnston, oozes class. She displays the trusting vulnerability and elegance of a society heiress and flapper, with a terrifying scream that might burst your eardrums!  Glyn Marshall as Deadwood presents an ill-tempered and malevolent presence, looming over the production, even when he is not onstage, especially when hurling the furniture about. Able support comes from Louisa Nozay and welcome debutant, Henry Finney, both having dual roles; Louisa as Bucket’s hard pressed, apron-clad housekeeper and Helen’s sister, Julia, and Henry as a cheeky newspaper seller and jocular handyman.  

The suspense and expectation is built beautifully by period costume, lovingly produced backdrops courtesy of the talented team of Chris Partridge and Juliet Devon and clever sound and lighting by the ever-resourceful Mitch Mitchell. Both are diligently supported by Bryan Partington. Shadows dance and thunder rumbles whilst the baleful playing of Bucket’s portentous pungi holds a clue crucial to the denouement.

Death by Detective is more than a mere play; it’s an immersive experience and an evening of convivial ambience. The Russell Players, with their passion for community theatre, breathe life into this quirky tale. It may not rival West End productions but it captures the essence of camaraderie, suspense and mischievous winks.


Andy Witting


dbd Act 1 - 05


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