Col. Calvarley begins the play by drinking some wine and dying. Right off. No exposition or anything. Bam. Dead. He is soon discovered by his maid. The Police are called in, Inspector Farcus and Sgt. Potts of Scotland Yard. They begin to interogate all of the members and guests of the house. Inspector Farcus is a funny fellow, given a lot of obtuse and amusing lines. Potts, who was raised in the Welsh coal mines has a barely controlled hatred for the upper classes. The members and guests are Lady Calvarley the Col.'s trophy wife, Charles Addley, the Col.s Lawyer, the Col';s Business partner, Alan Horbiss and his wife Bernice. There there are two domestics, Hannah, the cook and Harold the House boy.
There are a lot of pure farce elements here. Everyone is sleeping with someone else: Lady Calvarley with Charles, Harold with Bernice, Hannah reluctantly with Alan. There is much talk of fetishes and outlandish BDSM sex and role playing. I was reminded of the plays of Joe Orton except without the casual homosexuality. There is a lot of doors opening and closing and people almost being caught in embarrassing circumstances. People's secrets are revealed. The Col. comes back to life and then is killed again,
It is quite silly with some genuinely funny word play, The play has a verse Epilogue, kind of like a renaissance play, that attempts to say that, amid all this buffoonery there is, in fact, a moral lurking in there somewhere. The play was written in the mid 80's and reading it now it seems not all that convention shattering. I'm not even sure that it was when it was written. The finer points of the moral are kind of lost on me. By the end of the play no one care about the Col.'s death, Lady Calvarley leaves with Charles for Majorca, Harold reveals he is actually an aristocrat and leaves with Potts, who has embraced his lower social status and has agreed to be Harold's servant,and the Inspector, at the request of Hannah, who likely seems to be the murderer, takes over the Col's estate which has been willed to her. The Horbisss' are strangely not given a final status. They just leave.
The play seems to want to say that we shouldn't be judgmental and allow everyone there lifestyle choices with regard to the sexual realm. I guess that is sort of implied in that the at the end everyone gets something of what they want in partners. I was more confused by what the play suggests as regards social class. It seemed to say that a very few people want to be servants and are happier that way, and that at heart most people want to be rich and idle. It's kind a strange end for a play filled with so much derision of the upper classes.