Pros: Astonishing performances and musicianship
Cons: A little too long, and could use some variations in pace
Arthur Whitney lies dead on the floor, in a house full of guests who wished him ill. It’s down to Officer Marcus to work out which of the many suspects, all played by Jeremy Legat, actually pulled the trigger. Getting to know this cast of characters, their backstory and relationship with the victim, takes a bit of time. So the first half hour manages the impressive feat of being a bit slow moving, yet completely frantic, as Legat switches accessories and mannerisms at high speed.
In true musical style, much of the exposition is done through song, with the two performers accompanying each other on the piano that sits centre stage. Their interplay on the piano is one of the defining and most impressive features of the show, as they alternate, duet, play games and generally multitask with music. There’s lots to enjoy in the lyrics, from the dark humour of So What If I Did? to the gentle insincerity of A Friend Like You, but while the melodies are enjoyable, they’re not especially memorable.
By the second half of the show we’ve just about established context and identity so the plot, simple as it is, really gets underway, with a few red herrings and a couple of decent twists. The pace, already pretty frenetic, hits a peak when Dahlia finally gets to sing her big number, with plenty of big number stage effects thrown in. It’s very funny, and very much in the show’s spirit of WTF!? daftness. There are tangents, throughout the show, including the arrival of a random Italian, and a longish song from three small boys. Some of this is eventually required by the plot, but some of it feels like nothing more than an opportunity for the actor playing the suspects to showcase versatility. Combined with the pre-murder intros, these tangents add a little bit of flab to a show that could bear tighter editing.
The set is an atmospheric, down-at-heel space, accessed through a smoked glass door, and filled with piles of books and overflowing filing cabinet What’s odd is that it’s much more private investigator’s office than it is gloomy mansion. While it’s good to look at, and has a few tricks in store, it doesn’t feel like the right set for this story.
All the same, Murder for Two is great fun, with enormously impressive performances from Jeremy Legat and Ed MacArthur. It lovingly sends up the classic country house murder mystery, with an ambitious young cop, a silent-but-deadly-vamp and plenty of small-town secrecy and betrayal. The fiery old couple, husband convinced his wife is a killer, is an amusing innovation. By the time the big finish comes, the audience is very happily caught up in the eccentric life of Collarhorn District.
Book and music: Joe Kinosian
Book and lyrics: Kellen Blair
Director: Luke Sheppard
Booking until: 13 January 2019
Box office: 020 7087 7900
Booking link: https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/whats-on