Peeling wallpaper covers the walls of a dimly lit studio in the upper reaches of C Nova on Victoria Street. An expectant audience files in to the sight of a woman asleep in bed and as the music fades the scene crackles to life as a trio of actors swoops across stage, shifting seamlessly from character to character.
For every well-executed gag there’s a slightly tedious exchange involving a lot of confusion and a lot of shouting, often taking the sting out of otherwise snappy dialogue.
It should be a familiar sight for anyone who has followed the work of Jethro Compton, the producer behind the sublime Outland at the 2012 Fringe and the sell-out success of The Bunker Trilogy last year. While the latter returns this year for another run, Compton has added The Capone Trilogy to the repertoire - three 1 hour plays by Jamie Wilkes which centre loosely around the infamous Mafia boss Al Capone.
The first installment, Loki, follows the depressive, seductive dancer Lola Keen (Suzie Preece), whose ties to Chicago’s criminal underworld begin to catch up with her on the eve of her marriage to a bumbling sugar daddy played by David Calvitto. As Lola sips from a mysterious bottle in her cabinet, the line between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred and the action ever more ludicrous.
The play is fittingly vaudeville and the slick cast makes the best of a hit-and-miss script. For every well-executed gag there’s a slightly tedious exchange involving a lot of confusion and a lot of shouting, often taking the sting out of otherwise snappy dialogue. That these overblown moments are the delusions of Lola’s drink-addled mind may explain it all, but this hardly makes it any more entertaining. Calvitto and Oliver Tilney do well to keep it engaging as they morph from dithering policemen into overbearing parents and incompetent mobsters, but sometimes there’s only so much they can do.
As it descends into farce, Loki risks losing its way. But just as I was wondering what the point of it all was, the closing scene brought relief. The fantastical plot in the hotel room ties in elegantly with Lola’s more sombre conversations with her bowler-hatted subconscious and out of this ridiculous romp comes a surprisingly moving finish, bringing home the profundity of seemingly banal plotlines.