Murder and mayhem are on stage at the One Touch Theatre in Crimes Under the Sun. Presented by established company New Old Friends, formed by husband and wife team Feargus Woods Dunlop and Heather Westwell, Eden Court is the last date on their nationwide tour. Their comedy format is proving popular and playing to full houses.
This is a loving homage to Agatha Christie with some light hearted physical comedy and has all the elements you would expect from a spoof thriller. Performed by a cast of four playing fourteen different characters who are staying in a hotel on the English Riviera (perhaps Essex or better still the Isle of Wight!) the solving of the dastardly crime takes second place to the stock characters involved. The narrative is essentially confusing, of course, but the fun is to be had by the deft changes and comic situations.
With a simple and slightly rickety stage set, reminding the audience of drawing room comedies and dilapidated hotels on the south coast, this could almost be a comedy version of Terence Rattigan’s Separate Tables with a female Belgian detective thrown in for good measure and a splash of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in the part of Lucien played by Jonny McClean. McClean plays four parts with an outstanding performance that uses his strong physicality, comic timing and energy. There is almost no need for him to change costume as his interpretation is strong enough alone, along with his dexterous handling of props.
Heather Westwell gets her chance to raise laughs from the audience when she plays three policemen simultaneously. Jill Myers playing Artemis Arinae, the Belgian detective, provides a solid anchor though sometimes it becomes difficult to follow her overlong exposition of the plot. However, she reminds the audience throughout that it is always Crimes Under the Sun in case they had forgotten what they are watching. And where did her name come from? A gaming avatar perhaps! The writer of the show Feargus Woods Dunlop has created three fun characters for himself and revels in the opportunity to use his height and body to portray them. His mock Irish accent as Father Ginnell wavers at times but we get the idea.
This is the third instalment of New Old Friends’ crime series of productions. The show is supported by Theatre Royal Bath and ran for the longest time for a visiting company in the new look Ustinov Studio. They obviously have a winning format, but the pacing of the two acts perhaps needs a better balance. Hopefully, they can emulate the success of other four handers in the London’s West End.