There is nothing quite as awe inspiring as an autumn drive up the A9. The variety of trees and colours is simply spectacular and the crisp autumnal day was perfect for a pleasant journey.
Grantown on Spey is a splendid little Highland town in the centre of the Scottish Highland on the northern edge of the Cairngorms National Park.
The town’s Square and High Street are lined with unique, independent and interesting shops and businesses selling everything from children’s clothes to whisky, fishing line to pottery.
Most importantly, the town has a splendid bookshop owned and run by an amazing woman called Marjory Marshall. She has owned The Bookmark since 2007 and personally selects every title and the astonishing range of stock squeezed into limited shelf space is testimony to her own eclectic and very varied reading.
Marjory is the driving force behind The Wee Crime Festival now celebrating its 5th year. I’m hoping to have a chat with her while I am here, so more later.
The Wee Crime Festival is an intimate affair attended by some of the country’s best known crime writers – this year’s line up includes James Oswald, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir , Lin Anderson, Betty Trask Winner: Daniel Shand, Michael Malone, Douglas Skelton, Caro Ramsay and Mason Cross.
It is one of Scotland’s hidden gems and the only Crime Festival I know of where the audience can have dinner with the writers.
The festival had a Gala opening on Friday night with a spirited performance by the Carry on Sleuthing repertoire company of Douglas Skelton’s New play, Murder at the Knickerage.
The packed audience was clearly anticipating an exceptional evening and as the metaphorical curtain rose an expectant hush fell over the crowd. Thankfully, someone picked it up and the evening was able to carry on uninterrupted.
As Douglas Skelton says, Murder at the Knickerage is a mystery, comedy play thing. There is indeed a mystery to solve – the eponymous Murder at the Knickerage of underwear magnate Silas who was about to sell his company in order to do good works with the proceeds.
But would the audience, with the help of amateur sleuth, Letitia Lovebody, ably played by Caro Ramsay who mostly kept a remarkably straight face throughout, be able to correctly identify the killer?
With the help of her nephew Bunny (Who is all ears), Letitia sets about piecing together the clues that will lead to the unmasking of a murderer.
Along the way we will hear some of the worst jokes on the planet, in the spirit of the Carry On tradition.
Mr Skelton is clearly a man who grew up listening to episodes of Round the Horne, as some of his lines are truly worthy of the best performances of Kenneth Williams in that series.
But if there is joy in the awful puns, the true revelation here is in the simply incredible performances. Everyone deserves plaudits for the multiple parts they played, but a few highlights for me were Lin Anderson and Michael Malone as Tom and Tim the identical Timtom twins and again, Michael Malone displaying his versatility as Yorkshire (or possibly Welsh?) businessman, Anthony Adverse.
Margaret Campbell was impeccable in her dual roles of Fife the French maid and Silas’ daughter, Emily.
But the true accolade of the evening must go to author Douglas Skelton who excelled as nephew Bunny and Farquhar the faithful retainer, whilst also leading the audience through the complex plot points.
I don’t know whether theatres these days are looking for pantomime scripts, but I’d suggest that Skelton is just the man you want to write yours.
I laughed like a drain as did the audience; it was just the right note to begin the festival and I am really looking forward to today’s sessions.
So off for Coffee Cake and Crime this morning….more later.