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Review: Cupcakes
Published on Sunday, 11 July 2010

It’s great to see so many visiting performers in town, but it’s even nicer to catch up with something made in Buxton.  Cupcakes is written by local authors and performed by local actors, and its very backdrop seems calculated to make us feel at home; all the action takes place in Marvellous Morsels, the type of pretty small-town café redolent of a lazy afternoon.

It’s a clever choice of venue, elegantly represented by a well-designed set and showing how an imaginative director can make the most of Poole Cavern’s marquee.  But of course, all’s not what it seems; the first customer’s a copper, the next’s a gangland boss, and owner Harry… well, that would be telling.  There’s scheming, there’s menace, there’s murder – and if you don’t know at once that Harry’s cupcakes are somehow significant, then you’ve never read an Agatha Christie in your life.

Among the six-member cast, I especially enjoyed Lynda Ward as DC “Sandy” Beech; she doesn’t get many lines, but her very appearance captured that hard-boiled and slightly chippy image so familiar from TV cop shows.  In the lead role, Michael Hall has fun with Harry’s double life, charming as the mild-mannered baker but hectoring and ill-tempered once his shadowy associates arrive on the scene.

It could have done with more subtlety in the exposition – the opening scene felt a bit like being held down while someone shouted the plot into my ear – and baker Harry’s cover was blown before his personal mystery really began.  But there was plenty of chicanery remaining to keep me on my toes; the twist at the end was unpredictable and genuinely touching, and the script wraps up with tantalizing hints that the story isn’t quite resolved.

This play isn’t flawless – of course it isn’t – but a trip to Harry’s café makes for an easy-going, solidly entertaining hour.  And, as in all the best establishments these days, the Cupcakes taste all the sweeter for being made from local ingredients.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.