Judith Herbig is no newcomer to the drama scene and and is currently hard at work in rehearsals for the upcoming "Let's Murder Marsha" which opens this weekend at the Milnerton Playhouse.
This is the fourth play Herbig directs for the theatre, which is constantly in the spotlight for its award-winning productions. Herbig studied drama at The University of Pretoria and worked for Capab before launching her teaching career in drama and currently works at Cannon's Creek private school in Pinelands where she guides pupils from Grade 7 to matric in the creative art of drama.
The side-splitting murder-thriller produced by Milnerton Players, that opens on July 28 , was written by Monk Ferris - and is a real comedy of errors. Herbig says she decided to stage it as the fast-paced drama will appeal to a wide audience and, is bound to have you rolling in the seats with laughter, as well as guessing the outcome with its many twists and turns.
It all revolves around Marsha Gilmore, played by Alida van Niekerk , who is portrayed as having an ideal life: pampered, married to millionaire Tobias Gilmore (Lee Speechly) who lovingly indulges her every whim. Problem is Marsha is also hopelessly addicted to reading murder mysteries, which her husband hates.
So, as Herbig relates, when Marsha overhears her husband discussing her forthcoming birthday surprise with Persis Devore (Petra Schiebe) an interior decorator, she mistakenly believes they are planning to murder her.
And, as an ardent follower of murder mysteries, she plots her own action. With the help of her rather nerdy next door neighbour Virgil Baxter (Gawie Smit), she tries to turn the tables on them with a poisoned potion.
It all starts to go terribly awry when her own mother, Lynette Thoren (played by Beryl Eichenberger), shows up for her birthday a day early, and Marsha thinks she is in on the diabolical scheme. Add to the equation that her cheeky French maid, Bianca (Tania Lemme) is about to go out on a date with her policeman boyfriend Ben Quade (Gareth Grey) and when he appears, Marsha thinks he is on to her poisoning attempt.
Herbig says she searched intensively for a production that perhaps offered something unsual but was also broadly accessible.
"I love comedies and when I read the script I loved the idea of a woman who basically misunderstands the surprise her is husband planning. There's lots of action on stage - people going in and out of the family's home. I personally don't enjoy plays which focus on people talking all the time and so this really met the bill for me," she says.
She adds that it's got "a beautiful set" revolving around a capacious armchair in the lounge of the apartment in which they live, in which in which Marsha is buried (pun intended) reading her murder stories.
''Her hsuband doesn't notice her sitting there and thus the consequences are quite hilarious. And then, when her neighbour gets involved and their heads pop up every now and then behind the bar it adds to the hilarity and ludicrousness of the situation."
Herbig says the drama is also sustained as the audience keeps wondering when Marsha is going to find out it's not a murder plot. "Assumptions and confusion reign with such funny consequences and this is such a terrific show for family audiences who like their comedy broad, fast and nonstop. It's also 'clean' with no bad blood, no violence, and no sex.
"And even though it's so icy cold outside there's a lovely warm enticing atmosphere inside the playhouse.
* Let's Murder Marsha will be performed at the Milnerton Playhouse in Pienaar Road, Milnerton from Friday July 28 until August 12 nightly at 8pm with matinees at 2.30pm on Saturdays.
Tickets: R90 evening: R80 matinee and member concessions. For bookings call 082 267 1061 or email [email protected]