Based on the classic Waddingtons game, first produced in 1949, this quick-fire and silly confection of a play is, should you choose to embrace it, a breath of theatrical fresh air. It lacks intellectual content for sure but it makes up for it in cheesy gags, a clever denouement, a well devised and versatile set and a cast that execute the whole with balletic precision.
The whole is littered with cliches and stereotypes, but of course this is entirely the point. This is a period piece, a farce that owes less to Feydeau and more to the Whitehall theatre where Brian Rix would regularly drop his trousers to reveal red and white spotted boxer shorts. In short, forgive me, the whole thing is a light hearted dollop of fun.
The cast are well versed in this, precision is the name of the game as they race around the stage, not only in the scenes but between them, dashing through doors, prat falling, mugging and generally creating mystery mayhem. As a murder mystery it’s murderously complicated too and deadly fast paced.
The billed stars are Michelle Collins who makes a fine Miss Scarlett, the vulgar Soho madam, and Daniel Casey as the arrogant and sexual predator Professor Plum. Laura Kirman’s Yvette the maid is delightfully silly and Wesley Griffith is so believable as Colonel Mustard that the portrayal is a delightful representation of that late 1940s style of acting.
Etisayai Philip is ice cold as Mrs White, the black widow of the piece, Tom Babbage as Reverend Green take the brunt of most of the slap-stick and Judith Amsenga is hysterical as the brittle Mrs Peacock, wife of a Government minister and having studied the programme her physical transformation from a strikingly good looking woman to this corrupt shrew of a character is quite extraordinary.
That leaves one remaining character and clearly the star of the piece, Jean-Luke Worrell is amazing in the key role of the butler Wandsworth. His long limbed presence is praying mantis like, his physical skills are those of a dancer and his face is an entertainment in its own right slipping seamlessly from dignified good looks to… well to all manner of weird contortions. I loved him in this but would love to see him play Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror show.
All in all a fun evening, a short evening too and one in which the cast certainly outweigh the script which in truth is the weakest link in this chain of theatrical nonsense.
Theatre Royal Brighton