Exit Stage Left by Adam Croft

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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.