REVENGE, PASSION, LUST, GREED, AND LOVE
1 June 2003
We saw a most extraordinary film recently. It was a French gem called 8 Women
and was the offering of a film festival which was running in Davis.
It's an Agatha Christie-esque mystery of 8 women trapped in a house in a snowstorm. The
master of the house is upstairs taking a nap as each of the women is introduced--the
daughter home from college brought home by her mother (Cathleen Deneuve), the younger
sister, the bitter spinster aunt, the daffy grandmother, the housekeeper, the saucy maid,
and the sister-in-law.
The younger sister goes upstairs to wake up her father and then comes down to announce
that he has been murdered--a knife protruding from his back, as he lies in a pool of blood
on the bed.
Obviously one of the women is the murderer, and it is for the exposition of the story
to uncover the truth.
It's classic murdery mystery faire with lots of unexpected twists (such as the
characters bursting into song at various point in the script), with an ending that takes
even the "murderer" by surprise.
It was the first movie I've seen in a long time where everyone left the theatre
laughing and talking about parts of it.
enjoyed it on two levels. Not only was it a fun movie in and of itself, but it brought
back memories of one of the more special periods of my life: Something's Afoot.
Something's Afoot is a musical parody of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians.
The Lamplighters produced this little gem of a show in 1985 and it stands out as one
the highlights of my years working with the company. Gilbert was the director, as well as
the musical director for this show. My friend David was in charge of props--there were
were a ton of them in this show.
The show also had one of the most beautiful sets in Lamplighter history.
It was a shame that nobody took a photo that did it justice. For what is essentially
a community theatre, the set designer/builder (Stephen McCandless) produced a 2-story
English manor house that was so elegant we all wanted to move into it.
The premise is that five people are invited to spend the night in a mansion on an
island. Each of them, of course, has his or her secret, and unbeknownst to each other,
they all have paths that cross. Of course, after all have arrived, a terrible storm comes
up, which washes out the road and the bridge and they are stuck there. The master of the
house (whom we never see) is found dead by the butler, who is blown up as he stands on the
stairs and delivers the news to the invited guests.
The rest of the show consists of each of the guests, and the house staff, each being
killed in various bizarre ways: one is hit over the head by a newell post, one is
"eaten" by a Ming vase, one is choked by a bunch of spears hanging on the wall,
one is blown up in a kitchen explosion, two are poisoned and one is killed by a poisoned
dart fired from a shrunken head hidden inside a "pouf." (a "pouf" is a
round couch-like affair)
For the dart effect to work, Gilbert needed someone small to fit inside the pouf to
manipulate the shrunken head, so he asked Paul if he'd like to do it. It involved Paul
coming out on stage in the dark before the lights went up for Act 2 (while the pit band
was creating a diversion) and then after he killed the colonel at the start of the act, he
had to lie there for the rest of the show.
I was Gilbert's assistant on the show, so attended almost every rehearsal and for the
final week, Paul and I moved down to stay with my mother because there were tech
rehearsals every night.
Because I was always around I got to be part of the "orchestra." Uh....sort
of. In the first musical number, the music is interrupted periodically by the arrival of a
new guest, each of whom rings the doorbell. Gilbert had it in his head that each
"ring" would have a different tone to it (though they were all the same bell).
He planned to ring the bell himself, while he was conducting the band. I convinced him to
let me be the bell ringer. Talk about being a nervous wreck opening night. I only had to
ring the bell five times but I was so afraid I'd do it "wrong." But once I got
over opening night jitters, it was fun to attend each performance and to feel like I was a
part of it all.
There was something special about Something's Afoot. Everyone involved in the
show has such a special place in their heart for it. Maybe it was because it was such a
small show--no chorus, no large orchestra. There was genuine affection among all of the
people, on stage and off stage, who were involved.
At the last performance, Peggy Ray Roberts, the actress who played Miss Tweed (the
"Miss Marple"-type character) even called Paul out from under the pouf to take a
bow. There were tears all around.
That was a golden time in my period of participation with The Lamplighters. It was 1984
and we couldn't possibly have predicted that in two years, 55 year old Gilbert would be
dead of a heart attack and Arthur Conrad, who was the butler in the show, would be dead of
But thinking of that time makes me smile. The memories are no longer painful. They are