This delightful old school romp of a detective story – simply produced and convincingly told – is essential theatre.
Brothers Nick – eager, bright-eyed – and Tim – the endearing dunce – piece together a ramshackle PI operation after their parents jet off (a departure shown in a riotous guitar and didgeridoo number). This production is economical in the best way possible: Heather Westwell gives a masterclass in personality switching, while makeshift shop signage allows for wild jumps of locus. A ludicrous chair car chase scene is a definite highlight: her facial expressions alone are enough to tell the ridiculous story.
One minute Westwell is a sergeant on the beat with a funky bass line. Then she whimsically dashes between revolving doors as a blonde-wigged Lauren Bacardi who wouldn’t look out of place in Scooby Doo. The whole cast juggles a range of accents with relative success – Mexican sounds like Italian, for example, but this almost adds to the innocent charm. Slapstick is gentle but effective and portrayals of violence are offset by ludicrous sound effects (boinks for murders) or appalling puns (quasi-swears), about as much as you can get away with for an audience from eight up. Real teaching moments that involve barcodes and LEDs are perhaps too explicitly educational. They’re enjoyable nonetheless.
Is this play ultimately about the greed of the bad guys and the naive hope of the young (especially Nick, played with childish awe) to conquer it? I'm not sure, but I do know that, at a time when computer games Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright rule the roost, this delightful old school romp of a detective story – simply produced and convincingly told – is essential theatre. Bacardi’s silly description of a pen pal love affair is indicative of a much-needed return to the traditional executed exquisitely here by New Old Friends.