Review: Ravenscroft (Sterling Studio Theatre Collective)

A hilarious whodunit mystery, Ravenscroft is playing at Toronto’s Sterling Studio Theatre

Ravenscroft (Sterling Studio Theatre Collective) is now playing at the Sterling Studio Theatre. The play written by Don Nigro was adapted into a movie re-named The Manor in 1999 starring Peter O’Toole. Ravenscroft can be described as a mixture of Downton Abbey and Clue, with a lot more laughs and questionable accents.

Six actors filed out onto the small stage of the Sterling Studio Theatre, maneuvering around furniture quietly in strict choreography. There were five women and one man with a majestic mustache. The mustached gentleman was Inspector Ruffing, who was hard-pressed to find the truth about a dead man at the bottom of a staircase in the Ravenscroft manor. Then the lights came on and the mystery was afoot.

Ravenscroft was a dark comedy that got its humour from mocking the genre of murder mystery, more so than its characters. The hilarity lies in the tropes in a gothic mystery. Absent the horror, tight-laced inspectors, wild accusations and lots of finger-pointing are delightfully ridiculous.

At times the play felt a little unrehearsed. There were moments when the cast stumbled over their lines. Each character had long strands of dialogue that were meant to be parried back and forth, twisting meaning and usually full of sexy double-entendre. I did not feel too strongly about the slip-ups, since the cast was saved by the fact that most of their characters were either hysterical and/or drunk.

A memorable moment was when Mrs Ravenscroft was attempting to seduce Inspector Ruffing (Harrison Coe) and both actors broke character. Mrs Ravenscroft, played by Jessica Hinkson, had two hands on Ruffing’s bottom while staring into his eyes. Then the two of them giggled through their lines. In a large production, that scenario would be disappointing. But in the small Sterling Studio Theatre, it felt acceptable. I felt like the small crowd of people there were in on the joke, instead of embarrassed that actors could not keep their cool on stage.

The venue really made the show. The small size and closeness to the audience changed the feel of the play. I was thrown into a murder mystery party with friends. We were all having a bit of fun. I would recommend seeing it if you wish to spend a night full of snickering and flirtatious banter all in midst of a murder investigation. Who wouldn’t?

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Photography credit by Josh Hinkson. From left to right: Elizabeth Tanner, Nadia Blanchfield, Harrison Coe, Alysa King, Alana Pancyr, Jessica Hinkson