TWO years after HATS Theatre Group wooed audiences with its first Agatha Crusty story — Agatha Crusty and the Village Hall Murders — it is putting on a second Derek Webb play entitled Agatha Crusty and the Murder Mystery Dinner.

Geoffrey and Caroline Robertson plan to celebrate 20 successful years of his business, Mighty Midget Vacuum Cleaners, owned jointly with Tim McArthur, with a celebration murder/mystery dinner.

Guest of honour is crime novelist Agatha Crusty. Played by Barbara Williamson she soon takes centre stage as, in an amusing take on Agatha Christie, she finds herself detecting two real life murders.

You can see how fact and fiction quickly become confused particularly after the house is surrounded by floodwater and the power fails.

This is where the cast come into their own. They all give a clear, distinct account of their parts and we always realise what character they are playing. This is to their credit as to present a play within a play is always difficult.

Anita Partridge, as Lydia Charlton, has the audience in fits

when she becomes hopelessly drunk.

At one point, there is a queue to simulate the strangulation of Anna who survives. It’s a highlight when Debbie Dickerson, who plays her, suddenly recognises the hands around her neck.

Well directed by Doreen Cockshott, Ashley Stokes must be congratulated on his amazing sound effects from a thunder storm to a vacuum cleaner

In the end we learn that it is all a case of “smoke and mirrors”

* Agatha Crusty and the Murder Mystery Dinner is at St Hugh of Lincoln, Glastonbury Road, Stretford, tomorrow.

For tickets, telephone 0161 748 5040.

Star rating: * * * *.