Monday, 18 February 2013

A Saint Valentine's Day Murder - review

Written by: Andrew Crane (@AndrewRCrane)

The LOST Theatre, London

Just to clarify, in case anyone else shared my initial expectations, this show has nothing to do with The St Valentines Day Massacre or prohibition-era American gangsters. Those looking for the dark and violent antitheses to Valentines Day may be confused, although judging by the auditorium rammed full of amorous couples, I might have been the only one. Ham-acted, predictable and wholly unoriginal; but with tongue firmly welded to the inside of cheek, you might find that there are a few laughs to be had. 

A Saint Valentine’s Day Murder follows strictly guidelines from the Big Book of Murder-Mystery clichés and revels in doing so. A group of oddball singletons at a Valentines Day speed dating event, organised by the even more oddball Johnny Druitt (Neil Frost) have their awkward evening rudely interrupted by the discovery of a dead body in the toilet. A questionable private investigator turns up and incredibly discovers that everyone is a suspect. Those of you who have seen The Mousetrap on the west end will have a pretty good idea as to how this pans out, although I doubt this show will follow suit and run for over 60 years.

Introducing the cast of maybe-murderers proves a little tedious. Due to the aforementioned tongue-in-cheek styling of the script, all the characters are rather shallow stereotypes and audience enjoyment is intended to come from these caricatures and to an extent it does. Whilst the speed dating concept provides scope for exploring the quirks of each character, which is taken full advantage of, it became rather repetitive after the third date. Because each character is so excessively vibrant, altogether they become overwhelming and a touch annoying, to the point where it feels slightly disappointing that it’s not one of the assembled getting gruesomely poisoned and stabbed.

The cast should however be commended for throwing themselves into their roles with such gusto, there wasn’t much to work with but each carried it off with enthusiasm, and it was this enthusiasm that made the show watchable, a particular highlight being Jean Pierre Le Poulet (Matthew Woodcock), our confident yet incompetent detective for the evening his brash characterisations worked extremely well and his entrance saved us from the continual speed dating.

It felt at times as if Peter Davis was trying far too hard to make his script quirky and funny, relying on his characters’ forced oddities to carry the show. Although this play was intended as cheesy, and incredibly successful in being so, the cheese we were treated to felt more value cheddar than vintage Roquefort; enjoyable and pretty much what you’d expect, but nothing special.

This production has now closed.

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