The Toyland Murders

Like a family-friendly version of Sin City with hand puppets, The Toyland Murders follows the adventures of Inspector McGraw (Becca Jones) and her deputy as they attempt to track down a mysterious serial killer in a town full of toys. 

Expect plenty of gentle humour as Kite Tail Theatre Company enjoyably tick-off some cop-show clichés.

The highlight of the show was undoubtedly the cast’s excellently exaggerated voice work, pitched at just the right level of zany for their larger-than-life characters. Jones was particularly good at channelling decades of melodramatic TV detectives as McGraw and the rest of the cast were pleasantly over-the-top in some colourful supporting roles. Charlotte Kirkman was suitably ridiculous as the pitiable wannabe-crook Scratch, whilst Anna Scholes’ easy charisma as Snake Eyes perfectly complemented an amusing scene in which she tried to teach Deputy Harvey (James Roscow) how to interrogate a suspect. The only member of the cast which didn’t quite bring their character to life was perhaps Gus Herbert – as notorious mobster Jack his menacing drawl fell a little flat.

The puppets themselves also let the show down a little: the designs for Deputy Harvey and Scratch in particular looked a little too simplistic and only basically resembled their respective toys. Sometimes you felt the puppets could also have been more expressive too, although Emilia Brittain did some comically sultry puppeteering as McGraw’s magazine-owning sister Lola.

Writer and director Ben Hollands, whilst not weaving a particularly complex mystery, maintained a lightly humorous tone. Most of the jokes were met with smiles rather than laughter, but the pace never flagged as there was a constant stream of surreal suspects and police procedural pratfalls to keep our attention. It’s by no means among the most visually-impressive shows at the Fringe and there are only a few really good gags, but despite all this The Toyland Murders is rather charming. Its appeal encompasses both children and adults, and there are definitely worse ways to pass an hour.

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The Blurb

When a series of mysterious murders hits downtown Toyland, it’s up to rag doll inspector Carmen McGraw and teddy bear deputy Harvey B Feltz to get to the bottom of it once and for all. Fresh from an acclaimed run at the Sunday Times National Student Drama Festival and in association with the award-winning Nottingham New Theatre, join McGraw and Harvey as they journey deep into the Toyland underworld and clash with the city’s most notorious toy criminals in a puppet noir adventure that ‘magically combines an appeal to children with adult wit’ (Sunday Times). ***** (