Synopsis: February 1939. Desmund Shilling arrives in Morlington Hill, deep in the heart of Cornwall, having been given the post of Head of English at Morlington School for Girls by the hearty headmistress Lavinia Sixpence.
Not far away, at Boothby Hall, Inspector Cribbage and Sergeant Salt are investigating the horrific murder of Lord Pluck – who is to blame? His grieving widow, Lady Penelope? His impetuous son, Viscount Robert? The no-nonsense cook or the handsome young school caretaker Joseph?
Miss Sixpence and Mr Shilling mount their own investigation, and very soon, horrible truths come to light…
Review: Shilling & Sixpence Investigate is based on Nigel Fairs’ murder mystery soap opera — The Morlington Mysteries — that has been running for over 21 years (new episodes performed every month in Arundel Jailhouse, Whitstable Castle and Spa Valley Railway in Tunbridge Wells.) After listening to this box set, I wish I could see several dozen of the live performances.
According to the Extra Interviews, the eight episodes listeners are treated to are a condensed reworking of a six months long live stage storyline. Fairs made significant tonal changes when he adapted his original work, however. The staged Morlington Mysteries are a comedic farce with a darker edge to them. Shilling & Sixpence Investigate has comedic moments, but the darkness is brought to the forefront to support a more layered narrative.
The cast — including mainstays of Fairs’ 368 Theatre Company in seemingly a thousand roles each — is beyond superb. It’s one of those instances in which legendary leads Celia Imrie and David Warner — along with their titular sleuths — end up taking something of a back seat to many quirky supporting characters.
Given that Shilling & Sixpence Investigate is a murder mystery, I can’t really discuss the plot, except to say that I was actually surprised by a couple of the twists, which almost never happens these days. Nigel Fairs managed to find angles on cozy mystery tropes that were refreshingly different, while not straying too far from aspects of the genre that bring audiences back for more. He walked a very fine line throughout, and he’s definitely gained a fan.
I must also give particular praise to Louise Jameson. Her performance alone is worth the price, and that’s saying something, considering her costars. I’m genuinely sorry I can’t elaborate, as bringing her role up at all constitutes a spoiler.
I would like to thank the entire Big Finish crew for crafting a review-proof experience. I look forward to subsequent box sets in The Morlington Mysteries range.
- You can purchase Shilling & Sixpence Investigate here.
Written By: Nigel Fairs
Directed By: Samuel Clemens
Celia Imrie (Miss Lavinia Sixpence), David Warner (Desmund Shilling), Louise Jameson (Mrs Levi / Sister Mary Benedicta), Matthew Waterhouse (Viscount Robert), Samuel Clemens (Lord Pluck), Nigel Fairs (Inspector Cribbage / Neville Chamberlain / Mr Miller), Max Day (Sergeant Salt / Griffin / Father Simon), Abi Harris (Lady Penelope / Mrs Volkov / Monica Blake / Jacqueline Jollie / Baronness Pippin / Miss Tullett / Mary Clench / Sister Ann), Radley Mason (Joseph Turner), Rebecca Crinnion (Peggie Pinn / Mrs Antrumm / Madam Caysey / The Duchess of Truro / Florence Constable), Lisa Bowerman (Mrs Harris / Phyllis Elliot). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer: Nigel Fairs
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
- Audio Production10