When High Court Justice Sir Horace Fewbanks is found dead, Detective Inspector Chippenfield and Detective Sergeant Rolfe are on the case to find the killer. That is, as long as they aren’t beaten to it by Montague Crewe, a debonair private detective with an Errol Flynn-style moustache.
Well-timed sound effects and self-aware asides make the play’s tongue-in-cheek nature even more apparent
Tim Norton and Jo Billington’s script is a good fun romp of the 1920s’ detective genre. Potential suspects are presented, facts are produced and twists are unturned. It’s not a show that has the audience on the edge of their seats with suspense but it is also not a piece to be taken in earnest.
Well-timed sound effects and self-aware asides make the play’s tongue-in-cheek nature even more apparent. At times, the plot seems secondary to the presentation which unfolds with rapid energy. The staging is great, making good use of the large cast (of 30 actors), many of whom play a number of roles. The ensemble is clearly well-rehearsed and the choreography is excellent.
There are some inconsistencies in performances, with some actors needing to project their voices more, but generally the Young Pleasance do very well with this technically complex piece. Hamish Lloyd-Barnes as the earnest Detective Sergeant Rolfe and Marcus Rapacioli as the dashing Montague Crewe have good on-stage chemistry and Jake Krais is also a standout performer in the role of James Hill, the first suspect investigated.
Production values are high and I especially enjoyed the use of the set, made up of a series of wood-panelled flats which are moved around to create the different locations in the play, including a library with a secret door in a bookcase, a sweet shop, a courtroom and the stairs to a fourth-floor flat. The dynamic and imaginative use of the set added greatly to the energetic pace of this piece.
While some of the humour is a bit too schlocky at times, The Hampstead Murder Mystery! has broad appeal. It is also a great showcase for the talents of its young and versatile cast.