What would an unpublished Agatha Christie mystery be like if, by some strange quirk of fate, its editor had given it over to P G Wodehouse for a final literary polish? Well, thanks to Tom Taylor, we now have at least an idea; a bit like one-man-show
Character comedy that, like Charlie Montague himself, is actually nowhere near as silly as you might think.
Admittedly, one man’s homage is another man’s pastiche, but Taylor clearly knows what he’s writing about; so ‘rakish aristocrat’ (according to the Fringe programme) Charlie Montague is a naturally endearing character, a bumbling innocent abroad—well, Dorset—seemingly soon out of his depth. For Charlie, on a whim, has set himself up as a consulting detective. Some judicious advertisements in the morning newspapers speedily secure his first case—to prevent the death of failing actor, Rex Hamilton, and he speedily travels down to the Cliff House Hotel to join both intended victim and an entourage of potential suspects.
That we have a reasonably positive image of Charlie is in no small part because, while he’s obviously our narrator, there appears to be no guile in the man as he explains the plot and performs the other characters, or at least those Taylor (as Charlie) can do voices for—an example of the script’s witty self-awareness regarding the limits of the “set” (a chaise longue on an otherwise empty stage) or its sole performer’s vocal range. Indeed, on occasions, Taylor’s a blur as he slips from narrator, to character, to speaking directly to the audience about their reactions.
If Taylor has a potential weakness as a stage performer, it’s an apparent reluctance to ever look his audience straight in the eye. As a writer, however, he really excels; while some jokes are pretty obvious, others are far more subtly rooted in both narrative and character, often coming to fruition when you least expect it. The result: character comedy that, like Charlie Montague himself, is actually nowhere near as silly as you might think.