The Other Palace, London – until 13 January 2019
Novelist Arthur Whitney is murdered at his surprise birthday party his wife throws for him. When a young and keen police officer arrives to secure the scene and do some preliminary investigating, he encounters a bizarre collection of characters who all have reason to kill the writer and are totally unbothered by his death. So whodunit?
Two actors play this zany collection of New Englanders and the onstage piano, with their talent drowning out the inadequacies of this silly, heavily-padded farce. Simultaneously dated and modern – the design and dialogue is out of the 1930s, yet officer Marcus has a mobile phone from the early-mid 2000s – the story lacks subtlety and sophistication. Songs draw out plot points well beyond their natural life, giving the overall effect of a show that’s not sure what it wants to achieve. The two hours with an interval could easily be streamlined.
Yet Ed MacArthur and Jeremy Legat are exceptional in all the roles they take on. Both pianists and triple threats, they charm their way through the story that tries so hard for laughs. Their energy fills the intimate studio/cabaret space underneath the main theatre, with a set impeccably designed to evoke a detective’s office from an old-timey police thriller.
On the surface, this is a polished, slick affair, but the simplistic writing and lack of substance let down this show. It relies too heavily on the audience being impressed by the talent and tries to sweep the under-developed story and inconsistencies under the carpet.