Not just a classic whodunnit!

Not just a classic whodunnit!

We talk to director Sean Baker about Dorothy L Sayers’s only play to feature her popular amateur sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey.

This is quite an old play, rarely performed. What drew you to it? 

Someone sent me the script just a few weeks after I’d seen The Mousetrap in London. I’d really enjoyed that and had been surprised by the humour in it. And when I read Busman’s Honeymoon, it did make me laugh quite a lot, and then when I got to the end and read the scene describing the murder method, I genuinely shouted out "oh wow!" I just thought it was brilliant and so clever and I knew I had to do it.

Would you say it’s a classic whodunnit?

That’s one of the clever things about it – it’s not just a who, but also a how... even the why is not entirely clear. Until the end of course! The other thing is, you never actually know the victim, so it’s not one of those stories where you build up a bit of sympathy for the victim and then they’re killed and so you become some sort of avenger, rooting for the detective. I suppose it’s rather cerebral in that sense – along with Lord Peter and Harriet and the police you just want to know who did it, and how on earth they managed it.

An early print of the novel of Busman’s Honeymoon describes it as a love story with detective interruptions. Is that how you see the play?

That’s a very good way of putting it. One of the interesting aspects we’ve found in rehearsal is the depth of the individual characters and their stories. At the heart of that of course is Lord Peter and his new bride, Harriet. She even asks him at one point, "must we investigate this?" It’s as though Sayers is literally and metaphorically closing the book on this couple and letting them go, to enjoy married life together with no more crimes to solve. There are some lovely scenes between just the two of them as he struggles to articulate his love for her and they also philosophise on what love and marriage are, as well as the implications back then of identifying a murderer, which has started to weigh heavily on Peter’s mind. 

The play isn’t just about Lord Peter and Harriet though, is it?

No, the other night I described one scene with two of the supporting characters, who have a... I guess you could say… somewhat complex relationship, as being like a mini-opera. One of the beauties of the script is how each character is nuanced and has their moment to shine – often comedic, though not always – and we’ve had a lot of fun bringing that out. 

BAWDS present...
Busman's Honeymoon
Tuesday 09 - Saturday 13 April at 7.45pm
Saturday 13 April at 2.30pm

Click here to book your tickets