Canal Café Theatre
We begin at the end. A down-on-his-luck detective is trapped in a warehouse with a mob boss, a Russian spy, a singer and the detective’s ex-partner. Of course, all are pointing guns at each other. An Unexpected Tale in Smoky Midtown hits rewind to show how everyone ended up here.
Our protagonist is played by two actors. One (George Alexander) is the Detective in the story that the other (Daniel Short) is relating at the side. Simultaneously, the narrator types dialogue and actions on his typewriter (and in an early piece of brilliance, uses the typewriter as a percussion instrument with the first musical number). But just how reliable is his work? There is comedy and pathos when he rewrites the scenes and forces the cast to go along with it; to parrot his new words as he seeks to fix the story to meet his own desires.
Throughout the show there are gags aplenty all over the stage; the narrator’s ongoing reactions, the piano player popping up with sheet music, and so much more. It’s all rather cleverly staged. The labelling of the props and the caption showing the location is both well thought out and, more importantly, funny. Having spotted some of the props in the bar beforehand it was great to see the labelled box then sporting a different tag when it’s turned around and the plot moves ahead. The accessibility features that Stage Noir have built into their play are also a part of the narrative, which is smart work.
The gags are funny and the one-liners (“leads as dry as my liquor cabinet”) zing around the place, greeted with an occasional dad joke groan. The songs though are, to be honest, a bit all over the place. There is some quality difference across the cast’s singing ability, while the songs themselves are not going to win any awards. But – and this is key – they are funny; no one is terrible and it’s just – fun.
That actually sums up An Unexpected Tale In Smoky Midtown. It is fun. There are bits and pieces here that I can criticise or suggest needs looking at, certainly. However my partner and I left after a snappy 65 minutes with big smiles on our faces. Sure, part of the plot doesn’t really hang together. Sure the singing wasn’t always brilliant: but everyone on the stage had their game faces on and brought a lot of entertainment to our evening in the Canal Theatre Cafe.
Stage Noir is a new theatre company with recent alumni from East 15 Acting School. This was a really good, really promising debut. Their intent to focus on the representation of neurodiversity (with all performances relaxed) really comes to the fore as the story reaches its well-earned conclusion. I would be very happy to revisit Smoky Midtown and hopefully Stage Noir will be able to keep it going.
Story and characters devised by: Stage Noir
Directed by: Rosie Frecker
Produced by: Amanda Elizabeth Rischel for Stage Noir
Music & Lyrics by: Ashley Hodgson
An Unexpected Tale in Smoky Midtown has completed its run at Canal Café Theatre as part of Camden Fringe 2022. You can follow Stage Noir on Facebook for further updates here.