A GOOD time is enjoyed in a good cause, by all involved with Busybody, including the audience.

The play - the latest in the Plays for Laughs series, staged to raise money for charity- is the sort of broad murder comedy that was the bread and butter of British theatre in the 1950s and early 60s, until subverted forever by playwrights like Joe Orton.

Now a play like Busybody comes bathed in cosy nostalgia, but it also remains very funny, largely thanks to its splendid central character. Mrs Piper, is a resident office cleaning lady cum tea lady, or “charlady”, a once numerous species, now pretty well extinct in the 21st century.

Mrs Piper knows everything that goes on within the building and has her finger, or nose, in every pie. When a murdered corpse turns up in Mrs Piper’s domain, she proves a better investigator than the official representative of the law, detective superintendent Baxter.

Baxter turns out to be an old classmate and boyfriend from schooldays.  History repeats itself as he finds himself repeatedly outwitted, outmanoeuvred and out-detectived by Mrs Piper, and needless to say, it is she who eventually discovers whodunnit.

It all amounts to a good old romp, Agatha Christie with laughs (and lots of them), delivered by some of the best actors in Essex, in aid of Essex Air Ambulance.  Belinda Belt as Mrs Piper, and the versatile Kevin Lehane as Supt Baxter, are splendid in the central roles, so what’s not to like.

My only beef is that the production looks somewhat under-rehearsed. It needs to move faster, add there were an excessive number of fluffs and missed cues, somewhat surprising from a cast of this calibre.

Busybody is at the Palace Theatre (Dixon Studio), Westcliff, until Sat Nov 7. Nightly at 7.45, mat Sat 2.30pm. Tickets: 01702 351135 or www.southendtheatres.org.uk