Classic Audio Productions, May 2012
Washed-up comedian Charlie Sparks (Ted Robbins) arrives at a local pub in Middle
England to perform a one-night stand. The star of Saturday night television in the 1980s, he has now fallen upon hard times:
ticket sales have been sluggish, and no one expects much. He begins his routine, telling the kind of sexist jokes that might
have been acceptable thirty years ago but which now seem archaic. However his speech becomes sluggish; he leaves the stage
unexpectedly and returns to his dressing-room. Within a few moments he is dead, the victim of an unexplained murder.
Enter maverick adventurer Kempston Hardwick (Daws), and his sidekick Ellis (Stephen
Palfreman), who just happen to be the last two people Sparks talks to before his death. Together they take it upon themselves
to investigate the murder by impersonating two police officers: this task is rendered much simpler by the fact that Hardwick's
first three initials are D.C.I. Thus when he tells people that he is DCI Hardwick he is not actually telling a lie.
This kind of whimsical humour is characteristic of this highly entertaining production,
in which Daws' Hardwick comes across as a cultivated person with a keen understanding of human psychology. His powers of observation
are also outstanding - at a glance he can understand something about people's past lives, rather like Sherlock Holmes. Palfreman's
Ellis proves a stoical, if somewhat unwilling sidekick, as Hardwick 'encourages' him to risk life and limb in pursuit of the
murderer. The fact that Ellis is slightly paunchy doesn't matter.
Croft's story goes through innumerable twists and turns until the murderer has been
uncovered. Needless to say, it is not the person whom we suspect. Hardwick takes particular satisfaction in outwitting the
police; to him they are a nuisanxce, often getting in the way of his investigation.
Exit Stage Left is the first production of a new recording studio based
in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. I hope it is not the last.