Multiple Murders are these days the staple diet of the small screen, ranging from Prime Suspect to Frost with the record belonging, surely, to Midsommer where corpses are so numerous one wonders how anyone survives around those parts, if indeed, they do!
The stage is not usually such fertile ground for homicide and writer Gerald Moon revisits much earlier theatrical territory in his unlikely black comedy, Corpse. This is the stuff on which Will Hay, Roberston Hare and, even, on the silver screen, Abbot and Costello once thrived. Small wonder then that Moon began his career with The Crazy Gang!
Director Philip Wilson is to be congratulated in harnessing so effectively a company which, all things considered, cannot have had much experience of this remarkable genre, unless it were on occasional visits to that increasingly rare breed: the British farce.
In the first of his twin roles as the eccentric, unemployed actor Evelyn, Simon Chadwick is splendidly over the top, with a period voice which might have been schooled in the thirties wherein this play is set. We are, in fact all of us supposed to be locked in the national scandal of the ill-fated Edward VIII's abdication.
Without even the odd guinea with which to pay the rent, Evelyn recruits a dowdy Irish major (Robert Benfield) as contract killer engaged to perform a dark deed on his wealthy double Rupert, alias Simon Chadwick mark two.
In this second role, Chadwick is decidedly dour and, while the performance is suitably distinct from his alter ego, it lacks the amusement which the proceedings require to keep them on the boil. I feel sure Brian Rix would have had us rolling in the aisles with both characters. That said, Victoria Carling is a winsome landlady and Ross Waiton, as the policemen, is the best period piece of the night, thanks to his uniform.
For truth be told, David Farleys design, while effective enough as it revolves from Soho basement to Regent's Park Penthouse, is a tad lacking in style. One feels so much went into the get-in that there was not enough time for finesse.
In fact the dulcet tones of the future Duke of Windsor come over very much as an afterthought rather than as the climax of a crisis which held the nation for months on tenterhooks.
The production continues until Saturday 28th October.
Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole