Lord Peter Wimsey's Last Whodunnit

“He was a sour tempered, close fisted … old brute”

Mrs Ruddle about the murder victim

Duncan Wilkins as the Rev. Simon Goodacre, Kate Tydman as Harriet and James Sheldon as Lord Peter Wimsey (Photo: Andreas Lambis)

Dorothy L Sayers went to my school, Perse Girls in Cambridge until she was 16.  Her detective novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey are murder mystery novels with literary merit.  Busman’s Honeymoon was the last Wimsey novel and also written as a play in conjunction with dramatist Merle St Clare Byrne. 

With Brian Blessed in the director’s chair at the beautiful dining theatre, The Mill at Sonning, there is plenty of action in this detective drama and multiple characters who might be the murderer.  Lord Peter Wimsey (James Sheldon) and his new bride Harriet Vane (Kate Tydman) are on their honeymoon in his newly bought country house when the body of the previous owner is found in the cellar with a massive head injury. 

Wimsey met Harriet when he proved her innocence after she was on trial for poisoning her lover.  She is a mystery writer and a perfect foil and colleague for her detective husband.  But if they were expecting time off from sleuthing during their honeymoon, they will be disappointed.  We the audience are not disappointed, as the intricate plot details are revealed. 

So the characters line up in their relationship to the murder victim, Mr Noakes.  In the drawing room, covers are on the furniture as Mr Puffet (Iain Stuart Robertson) is cleaning the chimney. Sweeps in south east London and north Kent are curiously from the Pearce family but like this fact, Mr Puffet might be a red herring.  Mrs Ruddle (Joanna Brookes) was Noakes’s housekeeper and she doesn’t have a good word to say about him.  Noakes’s gardener was Frank Crutchley (Christian Ballantyne), a local motor mechanic who had lent £40 to Noakes for a business deal. 

Helen Bang as Miss Agnes Twitterton (Photo: Andreas Lambis)

It seems that Mr Noakes’s reputation of having a lot of money might not be true as his complicated financial dealings start to emerge.  Local police constable Sellon (Luke Barton) was paying him £5 every week after his wife needed special treatment. In 1936 Hertfordshire the house cost £650.  Miss Agnes Twitterton (Helen Bang), Noakes’s niece is his sole heir and expects to inherit.  Completing the honeymoon party is Wimsey’s butler cum valet Mr Bunter (George Tefler). 

Do you remember the era when everyone was known by their title, Mrs This and Mr That and Miss Thing?  There is no sense of impending war in Sayers’s play although there are maybe hints of a recovery from the recession.  Gracie Field’s song “The Largest Aspidistra in the World” introduces the house plants on set. People are costumed with appropriate style and the house is furnished in period although there will be people at the door trying to claim the furniture to pay off Noakes’s debts. 

The first act sets up the exciting denouement for the second which I was unable to predict but it wasn’t so ridiculous as some of the “Jonathan Creek” conclusions.  The murder weapon is cleverly uncovered in this very satisfying concluding act.  I particularly liked Kate Tydman’s performance as Harriet, a woman with a good brain and a good fit for her monocled husband.  The ensemble cast are strong and Mr Blessed must have drilled them into submission.  I’d love to have been at a rehearsal. 

The Mill at Sonning is such a perfect setting, it is wonderful that it has survived the pandemic to bring us memorable evenings of a delicious supper and intriguing drama.  Next up is the Neil Simon play Barefoot in the Park

Luke Barton as Constable Sellon and Janes Sheldon as Lord Peter Wimsey (Photo Andreas Lambis)

Production Notes

Busman’s Honeymoon

Written by Dorothy L Sayers

and Muriel St. Clare Byrne

Directed by  Brian Blessed



Christian Ballantyne

Helen Bang

Luke Barton

Joanna Brookes

Chris Porter

Iain Stuart Robertson

James Seldon

George Tefler

Kate Tydman

Noel White

Duncan Wilkins


Director: Brian Blessed

Set Designer:  Michael Holt

Costume Designer: Natalie Titchener

Lighting Designer: Matthew Biss

Fight Director: Alison de Burch


Running Time: Two hours 10 minutes with an interval

Booking to 25th June 2022


The Mill at Sonning Theatre 

Sonning Eye


RG4 6TY 

Website: millatsonning.com

Box Office: (0118) 969 8000

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Mill at Sonning

on 6th May 2022