Crimes Against Christmas Pamela Raith Photography
Crimes Against Christmas Pamela Raith Photography

Crimes Against Christmas, Ustinov Theatre, Bath

Too fast, too frenetic and too difficult to follow. Or maybe that’s the point. Craig Sander’s Crimes Against Christmas slapstick comedic romp promises a parody of an Agatha Christie style murder mystery mixed with a Five Go Murdering in Dorset story and ends ups with a rather a hyperventilating comedy which falls between two genres.

The New Old Friends’ production of Feargus Woods Dunlop’s black humour farce is difficult to keep up with as the main protagonist Aldridge rattles through the plot which concerns 12 characters who are invited to stay on an island and who are mostly bumped off in between empty glasses of whisky. The murders and the reasons for the sudden deaths are difficult to comprehend due to the break neck pace of the dialogue and breathless narrative.

That said the four actors: Heather Westwell, Feargus Woods Dunlop, Dan Winter, and Jonny McCleancome zip through the script creating an array of characters, accents and delivery. All good. There’s the butler with his contorted face, the rapper and his girl, the Russian Princess with knobbly knees and Artridge the narrator and detective played by Feargus Woods Dunlop in an ill-fitting suit. His costume aside it was the direction that needed some forensic work to introduce moments of summing up and reflection as is required in all good whodunnits. Like the perfect murder it was all good on paper. It was just the delivery that needed attention.

There is little attempt to interact or engage with the audience in this take it or leave it production which is a shame as there is a lot to enjoy. It’s funny, it’s fast and it’s farcical as it sends up Miss Marple, Agatha Christie, Dick Barton and a country house full of cliches regarding the implausible world of murder mysteries. But you are left wondering what was the point.

Produced by the criminal clique of the Lichfield Garrick, and the humour motivated New Old Friends company the two hour show is packed with fun, frivolity and in-jokes but stays stuck in the decades it intends to parody. Which is weird. The best of the show features an excellent dance routine, the tongue twisting maid, Carl Davies’ revolving doors set and a sharply written script with throw away lines. It has its moments but sadly falls short of a comedy classic. Despite its shortcomings the show just about crosses the line between Crimes Against Christmas and crimes against the theatre.

Harry Mottram

Three stars

The show runs to January 8, 2017.