Friday, 14 December 2018

REVIEW: Murder For Two at The Other Palace (Studio)

Murder For Two claims its inspiration is part Marx Brothers and part Agatha Christie. There’s also a hefty dose of Broadway pastiche thrown in, a sub genre in its own right of which there are an increasing number of examples.

The story concerns a classic country house murder mystery. The subject of a surprise birthday party gets a different sort of surprise as he is shot dead on arrival. But by whom? All the suspects are played by Jeremy Legat, running around the set, grabbing props as he goes, to become anything from a ballerina to a choir of three nine year old boys. Ed MacArthur is the detective, desperately trying to corral all these characters so he can follow his protocol for solving the case and show his boss he’s ready for promotion. 

In a breathtaking display of energy and skill the pair also play the piano, sing and dance, for this is a musical. And although it’s on a small scale – the two actors are the entire cast and band – it has the style and panache of a full-scale Broadway show. Knowing nods and winks to various Broadway tropes are heavily signposted with references to doing ‘my big number’ and ‘the friendship song’. It’s all huge fun and the musical numbers are tuneful and even catchy.

The verbal and musical dexterity on show is formidable and director Luke Sheppard has used this to deliver a crisp, pacey and detailed show. The set, too, is fabulously detailed. It seems to be modelled on a film noir private detective’s office, with papers spilling out of the desk and a moodily smokey atmosphere. In some ways this is appropriate because the setting is American. In others it’s an oddity because all the action takes place at the scene of the crime, not in the detective’s office. Also, our detective is a police officer, not a private eye. This mix up of different elements is indicative of where this show is somewhat at odds with its claimed source material. The Christie content goes only as far as the fact that it’s a whodunnit. The Marx brothers contribution is a little less obvious. But the sharp script, great music and tour de force performances make for a fun-filled and wonderfully entertaining experience. 

Review by John Charles

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Studio floor (open seating) | Price of ticket: £24
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