Pros: Fans of The Puppini/Andrews Sisters and Philip Marlowe will find plenty to like.
Cons: Would have been nice to have a few other faces taking part in the ‘main’ part of the show.
Nostalgia is very popular at the moment, as there have recently been a number of shows in London recently that have been set between the 1920s and 1950s. The latest – Dick Backard: Private Eye – is on the surface similar to the Fitzrovia Radio Hour, which parodied the BBC’s programmes ‘on the Wireless’. Dick Backard though, takes its influence from Raymond Chandler’s detective novels.
With a cast of seven, Dick Backard follows a down-on-his luck investigator as he’s roped into locating the head of a pasta empire by Vanessa Valure (Kathryn Haywood-Ryan). Every bit the femme fatale of the film noir movies, Haywood simultaneously plays the part with a palpable sensuality and comic timing. Peter Lee Harper who plays Dick Backard, delivers the dry one-liners with the steady rhythm of a Tommy gun, while Michael Anthony Bond who also directed the show, plays numerous roles from Dick Tracy-style henchmen to a grateful (if not terribly bright) barman.
The most inspired part of the show is the inclusion of Voxelle, an acapella trio (Aleksandra Skocz, Rhiannon Drake and Helen Hart) to punctuate the narrative with a series of complementary songs and jingles from the 1940s. As well as having spots where the group collectively and individually get their chance to shine, Voxelle would periodically burst into song when random products were mentioned in the play, all very funny. Drake – doubling up as a clumsy sound effects operator – played the part with mischievous glee and was fun to watch.
Compèring the evening’s events was the vivacious Paula Brett as the Producer. Her facial expression while watching the antics at the sound effects counter and onstage were hilarious. It would have been nice for her and perhaps a few other people to join in the ‘main’ part of the show, just to mix it up a bit. Brett does have her own sing-and-dance spot though, that is entertaining – especially when she’s interacting with the audience!
The set dressing by Kristiina Laasik was functional (chairs, drapes and an assortment of items for sound effects), but not ostentatious. In contrast, the garments supplied by Lora Smart and worn by the female members of cast – in particular, Kathryn Haywood-Ryan and Voxelle – have the pre-requisite glamour of the period and are exquisite to look at.
Dick Backard is a very enjoyable show and if I lived in Balham, I would certainly go and see this show again. (NB: Dick Backard only takes place on Wednesdays, but it does run until 26th March.)
Author: Tom Pakinkis
Director: Michael Anthony Bond
Costume Designer: Lora Smart
Make-Up Artist: Heba Drieto
Set Dresser: Kristiina Laasik
Booking Until: 26 March 2014