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The Florians hope for ‘house full’ signs with Arsenic & Old Lace at Bught theatre


By Margaret Chrystall

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An Inverness theatre company have a mission with their latest production Arsenic & Old Lace which opens on Wednesday.

A favourite comedy film of the 40s from director Frank Capra, it sprang from a stage play that Trevor Nicol had wanted to present with The Florians for a long time – almost as long as his brother Nicholas Nicol who appears in the play.

“I beat him to it!” laughs Trevor.

Mortimer and Elaine played by Scott Crichton and Jo Galloway in Arsenic & Old Lace presented by The Florians from Wednesday, May 31. Picture: Matthias Kremer
Mortimer and Elaine played by Scott Crichton and Jo Galloway in Arsenic & Old Lace presented by The Florians from Wednesday, May 31. Picture: Matthias Kremer

Q What was The Florians' mission in doing this play?

A We want to cheer people up – let’s face it, things are pretty grim just now. We wanted to put on something that would make people laugh so they would walk out of the theatre with a smile on their face. That was one of the first criteria – and we thought this one would fit the bill! I remember seeing the film years ago and it was kind of quirky with black humour which appealed to me, I thought it was a good one to get people into the theatre and laughing again.

Caroline Nicol and Aileen Hendry as Abby and Martha Brewster. Picture: Matthias Kremer
Caroline Nicol and Aileen Hendry as Abby and Martha Brewster. Picture: Matthias Kremer

Q What happens in Arsenic & Old Lace?

A It starts off very cosily with two old ladies entertaining the minister from the church next door. He is in having a cup of tea and they are chatting away about biscuits and jam and one of their nephews is there, he thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt. Then things take a dramatic turn and go a bit ... dark.

Teddy who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, played by Tom Masterton. Picture: Matthias Kremer
Teddy who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt, played by Tom Masterton. Picture: Matthias Kremer

Q You don’t want to give away too much to anyone who doesn’t know what happens, do you?

ANo! The two old ladies are doing things for the best of reasons, it’s a kindness to lonely people...

Q How has it been working on the play?

AThe reading and casting nights were very well attended and it is a large cast, that is one of the ‘problems’ with the play, so I’ve actually cut a couple of the characters out and amalgamated them. From the point of view of backstage we were going to have problems with space! There are a lot of men, eight men and three women and 11 in a cast is a lot.

Caroline Nicol and Aileen Hendry as Abby and Martha Brewster with the important windowseat! Picture: Matthias Kremer
Caroline Nicol and Aileen Hendry as Abby and Martha Brewster with the important windowseat! Picture: Matthias Kremer

Q Give us an idea of some of the other characters?

A Playing the character that Cary Grant played in the film, the ladies’ nephew Mortimer, is newcomer Scott Crichton. He is very good and we have high hopes of him for the future if he stays with us. The second nephew Jonathan is the black sheep of the family. He is played in the film by Raymond Massey, in the original play on Broadway he was played by Boris Karloff because Jonathan is meant to look like Boris Karloff. Jonathan is played by Martin Anderson and Dr Einstein is played by my brother Nicholas Nicol. The two Brewster sisters – Abby is Caroline Nicol and Martha is played by Aileen Hendry.

Q Would you describe it as a comedy?

A It’s almost like a farce really with characters coming in and out of doors, and characters disappearing into the cellar. Teddy (Tom Masterton) thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt. He has a nasty habit of playing a bugle and running upstairs because he thinks he is charging up a hill in the Spanish American War.

Q What are the challenges of directing this play?

AThe set is almost another character, all these doors and the staircase is crucial. And a windowseat plays a part. We had to get someone to build us one. I asked him if he could make it creak when it opens, but it didn’t. So I went at the hinge with a hammer, so now it creaks beautifully! It’s funny the things you have to do when you are the director.

Q Are these difficult times with cost of living reflected in your ticket sales for this show?

AThe ticket sales have been going really well, though a lot of people leave it till the last minute to book. I’m hoping some nights

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Arsenic & Old Lace opens at Florians Theatre on Wednesday, May 31.

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