Dick Tracy

Devised by Al Dunn, Matt Freeman, Nick Bunt, Dan Bianchi and Alex White
Le Navet Bete
Barbican Theatre at The Plymouth Athenaeum

Daft comedy quartet Le Navet Bete has been delving into the depths of its garage and is blowing the cobwebs off its much-loved, mothballed Dick Tracy, much to the delight of the Devon company’s dedicated—and growing—following.

The iconic 1930s comic strip crime fighter is given the ‘specialising in being very silly’ treatment with the fantastic foursome playing numerous characters with lightning changes, irreverent romps, musical interludes, mime and some truly ingenious moments. Expect tightly-honed tomfoolery, incisive characterisation, rubber faces (literally and metaphorically) and cracking timing.

All-American, square-jawed, man-in-the-yellow coat clever Dick (that is the level of the humour) is on a mission to rid the city of crime—and he has almost succeeded but then that’s the job. Foiled jewellery heists, safe cracking and art thefts—although poor Mona Lisa needs a little touching up (told you)—the band of bungling burglars are badly in need of a break. Enter Big Boy Caprice, fresh out of clink, and, with the help of his sometimes legless, sometimes duplicitous model girlfriend, he has Tracy’s downfall in his sights and a mega-casino on his mind.

Dan Bianchi is the world-famous bi-lingual detective, enigmatic and laconic, married to the job—much to the chagrin of long-suffering deadpan dancing queen Tess (Matt Freeman). But the tables are turned when, fooled into shooting kittens and setting fire to an orphanage, our hero is banged up allowing Caprice (Nick Bunt) and his idiot henchmen to run amok with dastardly plans for city centre regeneration purportedly including rabbits on roundabouts and one-armed bandits.

Al Dunn impresses as Mint Club MC Freddie / Careless Whisper / Chief of Police (and others) as the tale romps through nightclub urinal, speakeasy, dimension-bending bedroom, hideway, police station, city hall and more thanks to Phil Eddols’s versatile hinged set. With bread tennis, audience participation, one-wheeled hogs, violin case snake, minute detail and mostly credible harmonies, Dick Tracy is fun and ridiculous with a definite feelgood factor.

So: will art therapy help Tracy escape? Will Big Boy’s three-step wrecking ball wreak havoc? Will the diehard lovers drown in the unbreakable glass box? Will Careless manage to pull herself together? Will Michelle master her rollerskates? It’s worth a few quid of anyone’s hard-earned cash to find out.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell