The Murderous Philanthropist of Croydon Town

I like improv as much as anyone, but part of what makes improv work as well as it does is the spontaneity of it all. It doesn’t matter if any narrative is loose and somewhat implausible, because you know it has all been made up on the spot. It’s part of the charm. Trying to capture the same feeling with a scripted show, however, seems like an attempt to cage a great white shark, insofar as it isn’t really possible. The Murderous Philanthropist of Croydon Town tries, and it does manage to produce some great laughs, but it feels hollow and made me wonder if this was the best version of this script they could produce.

I would call the humor python-esque, but it doesn’t have the willingness to subvert itself that Monty Python does.

Our story begins in Croydon, but not the Croydon you know and love. In a different, simpler Croydon, a man named Quincy Quincy Quincy wants to marry again, after losing his seventh wife. When he meets a new wife, suspicions abound that he has been killing his wives for nefarious, sinister purposes. This is really a frame more than anything else, because what the show really wants to do is give you a bunch of absurdist gags. Things like strange, cardboard cut-out dream sequences or random urchins with dual personalities are common in this world. So common, in fact, that I’d argue they’re the most consistent part of the world. I would call the humor python-esque, but it doesn’t have the willingness to subvert itself that Monty Python does. Instead, it just throws crazy things at the wall to see what works.

The show depends on musical interludes, which are for the most part, inconsistent though a few of the more serious are genuinely impressive. The best of those is a sea shanty which uses only a small drum and the voices of the cast, and is excellent. However. the comedic ones have a sort of intentionally terrible character; charming at times, but less so on other occasions. This feeds back into the general strangeness of the show’s humour. I understand how a joke works, and I laugh, but I never feel that the joke is very good.

This doesn’t mean that the whole show isn’t funny, because much of it is. I’d say that for the most part, the jokes hit. Never quite as hard as I’d like, but they are funny. But there’s a hollowness to them – there’s nothing that really connects them apart from a general feeling of absurdity. And this makes the show difficult to like.

Reviews by Miles Hurley

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Join Intrepid Fools on a daring adventure of mystery, music and mayhem. The year is 1889 and there's more to Croydon than the average fete-goer would suspect... The play is a farcical tale following Isabella, the next unassuming wife of a murderous philanthropist fixated on finding the perfect woman. If he can’t find her, he will make her. Beautifully tied together with charming musical interludes. ‘Sharp, brave and charmingly funny comedy-musical by a very exciting new young company’ (Temper Theatre).

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