The Other Palace, London – until 13 January 2019
The riotous musical comedy Murder for Two is back at The Other Palace Studio for a second season and it has been likened to “Agatha Christie meets The Marx Brothers over a game of Cluedo”.
Sure, it’s a crazy homage to an entire canon of murder mystery stories, but it owes less to the sedate world of St Mary Mead and Miss Marple and more to the pulp fiction of noir author Raymond Chandler and his Philip Marlowe. Heck, there’s even a character called Dahlia, a name synonymous with murder, both in real life and on screen.
I can just imagine the fastidious Hercule Poirot’s disgust if he were ever confronted with Gabriella Slade’s wonderfully evocative, grubby, down-at-heel set which makes full use of every corner of the Studio’s snug stage. This is no genteel country house with a maniacal butler nor is it a drawing room mystery solved over sherry. Murder for Two is set in modern-day New England – the stamping ground of Jessica Fletcher’s Murder She Wrote.
And it involves a role call ranging from a needy psychiatrist, a pair of grumpy neighbours and a promiscuous prima ballerina, to a choir of mischievous young boys and an aspiring young criminologist.
This is Dick Tracy territory where the audience is taken on a whirlwind ride through The Mysterious Case of Arthur Whitney, accompanied by Ed MacArthur’s hapless wannabe detective, Officer Marcus Moscowicz, and the unstoppable Jeremy Legat playing… well… everyone else.
This madcap show, which has been a huge hit both Off-Broadway and in Europe, whistles through the case at breakneck speed and only slows down for an occasional song (11 in all and every one a doozy).
Both actors play the upright piano to accompany each other while the plot reveals itself.
And what a story Americans Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair have concocted. It’s worthy of Christie, James Ellroy, PD James et al. Who knew cold blooded homicide could be such fun?
Crime-writer Arthur Whitney (one of the few characters we never get to meet) is shot dead as he arrives home to celebrate his birthday with his wife, and former actress, Dahlia.
First on the scene is Officer Marcus, who is just getting over discovering that his former partner – and lover – Vanessa, was a serial killer. He’s a rookie cop at Collarhorn Police and he accompanied by his taciturn new oppo, Lou.
Over the next 100 minutes we follow Marcus as he tries to make sense of the clues helped, and hindered, by Legat’s hysterical portrayal of the suspects.
Needless to say that there’s some moments in The Watermill Theatre production which are too much even for the duo and the pair can’t help but corpsing – rather apt in a comedy about murder.
It’s energetic and frenzied, a black comedy that is both cleverly inventive and genuinely hilarious. If, like me, you’re a bit of a crime thriller addict, there’s much fun to be had in trying to work out whodunit.
Both actors are hugely entertaining and Legat, playing up to 12 characters, is a hoot, changing suspect so frequently that it makes your head spin.
An audacious, fast-paced and uproarious show.
Murder for Two runs at The Other Palace until January 13.
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