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Criterion Theatre
Arsenic And Old Lace (2023)
Written by Joseph Kesselring
Sat 9th December to Sat 16th December
Director – Bill Butler
Production Photos
Abby Brewster – Christine Evans
Martha Brewster – Chris Ingall
Teddy Brewster – James Hammond
Mortimer Brewster – Ted Mcgowan
Jonathan Brewster – Lukasz Nowacki
Elaine Harper – Leonie Slater
Dr Harper – Simon Brougham
Dr Einstein – Rebecca Fenlon
Officer O'Hara – Chris Firth
Lt Rooney – Simon Brougham
Officer Brody – Stacey Edward-Harris
Officer Klein – Michael Hammond
Mr Gibbs – Michael Hammond
Mr Witherspoon – Craig Mckay
Body – Alex Skinner
Stage Manager – Paul Cribdon
Assistant To The Director – Tony Cuttiford
Prompt – Lilian McGrath
Wardrobe i/c – Pam Coleman
Wardrobe – Rowena Tye
Wardrobe – Diana Slocombe
Wardrobe – Nancy Silvester
Props – Sally Patalong
Props – Bill Young
Props – Erica Young
Props – Helen McGowan
Props – Rose Gerrard
Set Designer – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Mandy Sutton
Set Build – Christopher Hernon
Set Build – Leo Hernon
Set Build – Carol Whitworth
Set Build – Hannah Burns
Set Build – Mark Ward
Set Build – Michael Waterson
Set Build – James Skerrett
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Paul Tate
Set Paint – Paul Chokran
Set Paint – Judy Talbot
Set Paint – Paul Tate
Set Paint – Alex Skinner
Sound Designer – Dave Cornish
Sound Operator – Kam Sahota
Lighting Designer – Karl Stafford
Lighting Operator – Paul Harrison
Lighting Operator – Verity Gillam-Greene
Artwork Design – David Butler

"The script, delivered flawlessly by all the cast, is razor sharp with wit and understated dry humour in this wonderful black comedy" Charles Essex

As a perfect end to our 2023 season, we present a revival of Joseph Kesselring’s classic dark farce, Arsenic and Old Lace.

This uproarious comedy tells the story of two charming gentle old ladies, pillars of the community who rescue their poor, lonely lodgers from the sorrows of the world  - by poisoning them.

Last performed at the Criterion over 25 years ago, comedies of this longevity are hard to find, being a huge Broadway hit in the early ’40s and then surviving as a relative staple of the international stage repertoire ever since.    

EDI Assessment

In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ has no specific diversity message within its narrative. The play can be cast with complete neutrality on race/ethnicity. On the character notes, there are indications where specific playing gender identifications are called for, however some characters can be cast gender-neutrally. This play was first produced in 1941 and elements of the play reflect attitudes at that time, in particular the approach to mental health. The play offers lead roles to older female actors.At the Criterion we are absolutely committed to a core aspiration to be a demonstrable place of opportunity for all, with diverse and brilliant plays on stage and inclusive company and membership. Please see our policies on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.



With so much doom-and-gloom in the news and bad weather, a fillip is definitely needed and The Criterion provides the perfect tonic with this production of Arsenic and Old Lace.  The script, delivered flawlessly by all the cast, is razor sharp with wit and understated dry humour in this wonderful black comedy.  The two elderly maiden aunts Martha [Chris Ingall] and Abby [Christine Evans] captured the precise amount of sweetness and eccentricity to contrast with their deadly charity work putting lonely old men out of their misery. 

The sudden realisation by their nephew Mortimer [Ted McGowan] of their lethal pastime set the scene for an ideal farce. Leonie Slater as his fiancée Elaine conveyed just the right mixture of innocence, feistiness and amour for Mortimer, and alarm and frustration at his sudden about-turns in his attitude towards her as he frantically tried to hide his aunts crimes and the dead body from her. 

Ted McGowan was a revelation with his timing and physicality in the role.  Lukasz Nowacki as Mortimerpsychopathic brother Jonathan and Rebecca Fenlon as alcoholic plastic surgeon Dr Einstein had great chemistry.  The very clever plot needed perfect technique and the cast did it justice.  Domination in the Brewster house swung back and forth between Mortimer and the menacing Jonathan, as Mortimer tried to protect his aunts and Jonathan saw weaknesses he could exploit to gain control.  The role of Teddy, the brother with delusional psychosis, is too easily portrayed with bombast but newcomer to The Criterion stage James Hammond portrayed him with just the right amount of deranged innocence. 

Simon Sharpe and his team built a perfect set of the Brewster house, trapped in a late Victorian time warp, and Director Bill Butler added some original features ensured the cast delivered a top drawer performance to a full house.  The run of this this wonderfully funny production is sold out and deservedly so.

Charles Essex

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