If you are in search of some polite 1930s garden-party-esque comedy mixed in with a hilariously self-aware performance, this is certainly a play to catch. Tom Taylor is an amorphous delight to watch as he carries the audience through a fast paced one-man murder mystery. We join Charlie Montague at the opening of a new modern art exhibition. Befuddled by both the artistic and the murderous side of proceedings, Montague embarks on a journey to find an art thief and a murderer.
This play twists the murder mystery genre to produce fifty minutes of zany and quick witted fun.
The characters are as varied as they are ridiculous. Taylor seamlessly switches between them with apparent ease, from softly spoken female characters, to the rakish and charismatic Montague, all the way through to gruff, seedy men with Chinese tattoos. He expertly fleshes out these often stereotyped murder mystery caricatures. At times I found myself with a bit of whiplash, but ultimately this is part of what makes the performance so transfixing. It is a joy to watch him draw attention to the multiplicity of his performance - “I’m worried he may have schizophrenia” – “Oh, I hope we’re all OK.”.
Although the pre-planned punchlines prompt a smattering of laughs, most of the comedy comes from Taylor’s self-deprecating humour. He uses slips of the tongue to his advantage, pointing them out and responding to them in character to hilarious effect. Latecomers to the show who couldn’t find seats were acknowledged with some impressive improvisation (“Do you want to just be part of the show?”).
The occasional too-early blackout, however, was confusing. Was this deliberate? - Part of the humour? Was it a genuine mistake that Taylor then went on to quip about? Either way, these could-be technical difficulties did not quite match up to the humour of the rest of the piece. In the end though this was more than made up for - merely a minor quibble.
This play twists the murder mystery genre to produce fifty minutes of zany and quick witted fun. A genius performance. It certainly left me keen to try out Taylor’s other Charlie Montague offering at the Fringe.