About the Director…

Annette Toms is the director of Death by Fatal Murder.

Here’s what she says about her acting career.

I have acted in over eighty plays for ALP and enjoyed every one.  I  have also directed over twenty but prefer acting in them. I have also acted in, and directed, many of our entries for the South West Herts Drama Festival

My greatest achievement was winning best actress at the South West Herts Drama festival for Betsie in Martyred Wives.

Before joining ALP, I was with the Brow Theatre Group for seven years until they disbanded.

Ever since I could walk and talk I have been in shows and pantomimes.

I would like to do another Shakespeare before I retire, in fact, I would like to be in another play before I retire!

And her message to the audience is…

Ever since I directed Murdered to Death, I have been waiting for the sequels. We have read this play on previous occasions but I had decided to do other farces instead.

Having problems casting another play I had chosen, this one immediately sprang to mind.

It is very hard to make a difficult play look easy and I hope we have achieved this. The cast have worked extremely hard and I hope the end result is as funny and as well received as the first Pratt play.

My thanks go to all the hard working backstage members for their support and help.

Hope you all have a lovely evening and enjoy yourselves.

About the actors…

_MG_3829 headshot casting 2

Wendy Ash plays the part of Miss Maple.  Here she tells us about herself.

I’ve been in approximately 40 ALP productions but my favourites were Dancing at Lughnasa and Snake in the Grass because the parts I had were real characters and very different from myself which made them that bit more challenging. I enjoyed taking theatre to a primarily non theatre going audience in local pub gardens where we were received with great enthusiasm. Maybe we made a few converts.

My other theatre interests include being part of Flatpacktheatre which enjoys doing plays of a slightly off beat nature such as Macbeth in a tent in Abbbots Langley park or gathering a dozen young people together to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or creating a tea room for 50 people in which to perform a docudrama about the Suffrage movement. The other string to my bow is working as a TV/film background artiste, where you can be working on a lavish BBC costume drama one day, and pushing a shopping trolley making a toothpaste ad the next. So if you see someone in Albert Square or in a bed at Holby, or loitering in a crowd behind Lewis who looks like me….then it probably is me!

(When written) the whole unlikeliness of the seemingly unobtrusive, all seeing, elderly lady, applying her everyday observations to crime solving, made for a wonderfully understated yet fascinating character, so when given the opportunity to play a Miss Marple type character, albeit in a spoof of the real thing, there could only be one answer. Yes please.

The challenges of this role are more physical than anything else. As soon as I open my mouth or react in anyway, I find myself adopting a mouse like, slightly stooping, enquiring stance which is playing havoc with my back. Apart from that she is a gem. I’ll straighten up eventually I’m sure. Got to suffer for your art, so they say.

My ultimate acting ambition is to do the best I can with whatever part I am currently playing.

About the actors….


Anna Saffery plays the part of Ginny Farquar.

What other ALP productions have you been in? 
The Regina Monologues this summer – my first with ALP. This is the second appearance with the Players and first on the Henderson hall stage!

What other drama experience or interests do you have?
A few years study at University, with collaborative devised performances and workshops in the years after and a splash of Scare Acting too.

What appeals to you about your character?
I always wished I could have been part of the Women’s Land Army – the Land Girls was one of my favourite films as a child. At least I can pretend in this role.

What have been the challenges of your role in DbFM?
Not bursting into laughter/corpsing on stage – credit to all the cast for being so funny but that meant keeping a straight face could be near on impossible at times…

What is your ultimate acting ambition?
That’s too difficult to answer, I’d do many things if given the opportunity in the world of Performance – singing, dancing, acting I’m not fussy!

About the actors….

Here is what Mike Orriss (who plays Thompkins) had to say in response to his questions…IMG_2861

What other ALP productions have you been in? 
Abigail’s Party – I played Tony, a quiet and grumpy ex footballer.

What other drama experience or interests do you have?
I was a precocious child actor! I appeared in West End musicals and TV Adverts. As a teenager I had a spell in Repertory Theatre before I ran out of money and had to get a proper job!

What appeals to you about your character?
I usually play comedy characters or those that are larger than life. Thompkins is much more restrained.

What have been the challenges of your role in DbFM?
Allowing the text to be funny and not turning Thompkins into a buffoon.

What is your ultimate acting ambition?
To play Archie Rice. (The Entertainer by John Osborne)

Meet the actors…

We asked the actors in the cast of Death by Fatal Murder some questions for the compilation of the programme.  Unfortunately, we had to edit their answers due to limited page space, but here you can read their answers in full.

First, Graham Ford who plays Enzo Garibaldi

IMG_2858 IMG_2860

What other ALP productions have you been in? 

• Katherine Howard
• Merry Wives of Windsor
• Our Countries Good
• Humble Boy
• Daisy Pulls it Off
• Lucky Sods
• Tea In a China Cup
• Pygmalion
• The Herbal Bed
• Out of Order
• Fairway to Heaven
• Hay Fever
• Who Goes Bare
• The Shell Seekers (also Directed)
• Sitting Pretty
• Separate Tables
• A Touch of Danger
What other drama experience or interests do you have?
• Directing
• Assistant Directing
• Stage management
What appeals to you about your character?
• His Italian Accent
What have been the challenges of your role in DbFM?
• Ensuring his accent doesn’t wander across eastern Europe, before it sets up home in Texas, or becomes an audible reminder of “Around the Horn”
What is your ultimate acting ambition?
• Done it, performed Macbeth, as Macbeth for audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe, I went with a great group of friends, who unknowingly made a dream come true for me (if that doesn’t sound too corny)

Rehearsals are underway for Death by Fatal Murder

Our next production will be Death by Fatal Murder by Peter Gordon.

Annette Toms directs this hilarious murder mystery and Brian Hibberd returns to the role of the irrepressible but hopeless Inspector Pratt who was last seen in ALP’s production of Murdered to Death in 2001.

Inspector Pratt’s record of crime detection at Bagshot House is not enviable. In his previous visit the body count mounted disastrously as he looked on, helpless and hopeless. Now he’s back and, as usual, chaos reigns supreme!

During the course of his latest investigations, Pratt meets the new owner of the house, Nancy Allwright. Soon he is embroiled in more mystery, aided and abetted by Miss Maple and Constable Thomkins. Upper-crust Ginny and Italian gigolo, Enzo, help with enquiries but danger soon looms with an unexpected arrival and a frightening suggestion by Welsh busybody and clairvoyant, Blodwyn Morgan.

Cast list

  • Nancy Allwright: Siobhan O’Hara
  • Ginny Farquharson: Anna Saffery
  • Inspector Pratt: Brian Hibberd
  • Joan Maple: Wendy Ash
  • Blodwen Morgan: Valerie Gale
  • Squadron Leader Allwright: Roger Gotts
  • Constable Thomkins: Mike Orriss
  • Enzo Garibaldi: Graham Ford

Performances are in Henderson Hall, Abbots Langley High Street from Wednesday 18 November to Saturday 21 November at 7.45pm. There will be a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm.

Tickets are only £8, call the box office now on 0844 804 5354

We hope to see you there!

One man, six wives…

The Regina Monologues poster

The Regina Monologues poster


Our next production will be The Regina Monologues by Rebecca Russell and Jenny Wafer.

The play is a contemporary take on the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives. Though the man himself is absent, we find out about his life and relationships through the words of his wives as they tell us their stories; simultaneously funny, tragic, enlightening and shocking.




Come along to The Barn, off Abbots Langley High Street (behind Henderson Hall, follow the signs) on Friday 17 July and Saturday 18 July at 8pm, Sunday 19 July at 3pm.

Tickets are only £6, call the box office now on 0844 804 5354 or book online

We hope to see you there!

RSC Open Stages: Meet the cast – Leonie

Ahead of our production of The Herbal Bed, we’ve asked our cast and crew to tell everyone a bit about themselves; you can read the first blog here. Next up under the spotlight: Leonie.

The Herbal Bed cast picture

Leonie Thompson as Susanna Hall

Your name: Leonie Thompson

You are playing: Susanna Hall (née Shakespeare)

Sum up your character in a tweet

A strong woman: mother, daughter, wife & lover. She is intelligent & manipulative; passionate & loving; shrewd & determined.

How similar are you to your character?

Very similar in some ways but hugely different in others.

What’s been the biggest challenge about taking on this role?

Learning my lines.

What do you enjoy about acting?

The escapism from everyday life and the challenge of becoming another character. I also really enjoy the teamwork involved in putting on a production, working with some great people and knowing that I am continually learning and, hopefully, improving.

What’s your favourite part that you’ve ever played?

Well, this is only my third part since acting at school (a long time ago!) but I did enjoy playing the part of Angela in Abigail’s Party – that was great fun!

What’s your dream role?

Any part acting opposite George Clooney!

How have you found being part of the Open Stages project?

It has been an amazing experience! The weekend of workshops in September was an incredible learning experience and it was a privilege to be directed by James Farrell from the RSC in a recent rehearsal…particularly as he was so constructive and positive.

Why should people come and see The Herbal Bed?

I think that this production is totally unique. Colette has shared the knowledge she has gained from the Open Stages project in her direction of this play and the cast have all worked exceptionally hard to ensure that we will all give our very best performances. Acting outside and in St Lawrence Church will add other challenges and very interesting dimensions to the play and the involvement of the community contributes to the innovative nature of this production. I think that people will really enjoy the whole experience!

You can see Leonie – and the rest of the cast – in  The Herbal Bed from 21-25 April in the grounds of St Lawrence Church, Abbots Langley (covered seating provided), as well as inside the church.

To book online, go to www.abbotslangleyplayers.ticketsource.co.uk or call the Box Office on 0844 804 5354.

In addition, on Saturday 25 April from 2pm to 4pm, ALP are holding a “community showcase” for local groups and societies to present themselves to our community – please come along and see what our village has to offer. If you’d like to take part in the community showcase, email abbotsplayers@gmail.com.

RSC Open Stages: A right Royal (Shakespeare Company) visit

Being part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages project has given us some fantastic opportunities. We’ve had access to workshops, training, expertise, as well as a unique chance to network with other groups in the London area and have a look at what they get up to – and how they do it.

One of the most exciting parts of being part of this celebration of amateur theatre has been the chance to work with professional practitioners as part of bringing our production of The Herbal Bed to life. And we have been lucky enough to have a visit from RSC theatre practitioner – and professional director – James Farrell, who came along to rehearsal to see what we were up to.

Royal Shakespeare Company director in Abbots Langley

ALP director Colette Holmes and RSC theatre practitioner James Farrell lead rehearsal

He worked with us on the first half of the play, watching our performances and suggesting new ways for us to think about the scene – whether that was a particular character’s motivation or a way of moving or interacting differently.

James also worked with us on voice projection, leading an exercise designed to show how we could amplify our voices in an outside setting without losing meaning or emotion.

It was all fantastically valuable and, in some cases, even made us completely rethink our approach to scenes.

For our part, we were able to treat James to some village entertainment – albeit by accident – when we arrived at our usual post-rehearsal watering hole to find a karaoke night in full swing.

Colette, our director, said she was “incredibly proud” of what ALP had demonstrated for James on his visit. “We were really excited to be chosen to take part in this prestigious project, and having a professional coming along to work with us and improve what’s already shaping up to be a brilliant production has been great,” she added.

Leonie, who plays the lead role of Susanna Hall in the play, also found James’ visit incredibly helpful: “Despite being exhausted, I couldn’t sleep after rehearsal with all the new ideas and suggestions buzzing round my head. I was a little nervous at the thought of a visitor from RSC but, rather than nerve wracking, I thought it was an incredible learning experience, from which we have all benefitted.”

The Herbal Bed will be staged from 21-25 April in the grounds of St Lawrence Church, Abbots Langley (covered seating provided), as well as inside the church.

To book online, go to www.abbotslangleyplayers.ticketsource.co.uk or call the Box Office on 0844 804 5354.

On Saturday 25 April from 2pm to 4pm, ALP are holding a “community showcase” for local groups and societies to present themselves to our community – please come along and see what is going on. If you’d like to take part in the community showcase, email abbotsplayers@gmail.com.

RSC Open Stages: Thyme for an update

The Herbal Bed RSC Open Stages rehearsal

Director Colette Holmes leads rehearsal

We’ve been rehearsing for a couple of months now, and we’re pleased to say that things are going very well indeed. In the first performance of the play at Stratford, Joseph Fiennes and David Tennant starred and although that will be a very hard act to follow, we’re confident ALP can better their efforts! The play is directed by Colette Holmes, fresh from her triumph with Pygmalion last year.

Tickets are available at www.abbotslangleyplayers.ticketsource.co.uk or by phoning 0844 804 5354

Look out for posters round the village.

It’s a community event…

The play is being presented in St Lawrence churchyard, in Abbots Langley High Street, from 21 to 25 April, as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages – the UK’s biggest amateur theatre project. Our proposal to the RSC included a commitment to involve the local community. Local musicians will provide the music and the planting of a herb garden is being organised by AIMS, volunteers who keep the village in bloom throughout the year.

Other local groups are taking part, particularly in the Community Showcase which will take place in St Lawrence churchyard from 2pm until 4pm before the final performance of the play at 5.30pm on 25 April. This is an opportunity for local groups to advertise themselves and is free to all. Come and see what some of our local groups get up to.

Get involved…

We would love more groups and individuals to take part in the production. There are opportunities to help out backstage, or even on stage. We will also need a lot of help with refreshments each evening – you might even get the chance to dress up.

If you have an idea for how your group could, or might like to, contribute, please get in touch at abbotsplayers@gmail.com.


We’re very grateful to Abbots Langley Parish Council, Three Rivers District Council and RES for sponsoring our efforts to put on this production.