Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Mystery of Edwin Drood! at the Music Hall Royal

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Tower Theatre Company at Teatro Technis, photography David Sprecher
Photography by David Sprecher

Last night’s performance (18 December 2012) of The Mystery of Edwin Drood!by Tower Theatre Company at Theatro Technis was perfect for getting into Christmas mood. This comedy musical written by Rupert Holmes, first shown in 1985 and the first play to have multiple ending decided by audience vote, has an excellent pedigree. It won for Holmes, Best Book, Best Original Score and five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Tower Theatre have arranged the stage as an old time music hall with cabaret seats at the front of the audience, and infused it with the smell of mulled wine. Faded and gaudy, with red velvet curtains, the stage within a stage sets the ambience and the Victorian music hall costumes are just right. The right wing of the music hall, behind the orchestra, is clearly visible and essential to the plot. Attention to detail is spot on - playbills give the names and details of the Victorian cast and the parts they are playing (but there are ‘real’ programmes too). From the very start the cast members interact with the audience and Martin South as Mr. William Cartwright the Chairman of the company keeps everything moving along, heckles the audience, and deals with audience hecklers.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood! is loosely based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished story of that name. But, while the Dickens’ story is dark and foreboding, Holmes’ interpretation is delightful pantomime. In order to move the plot along some of the characters have been lost; others have had their personality changed slightly (for comedic effect) - for example, John Jasper (Dom Ward) is transformed into a ‘baddie’. But in this musical no character is truly defined and it is this which has allowed Homes the freedom to write multiple endings.

Throughout, the members of the cast either play their ‘actor’ or their part in Drood. Since they are playing music hall actors there is a great deal of upstaging, bad manners, and dropping back into ‘actor’, but this, along with the off stage action, provides a humorous back story and brings lightness to the original Dickens’ story. The style and execution of the musical numbers by a small band of musicians (who also have their own comedy moments) makes the songs and incidental music seem familiar, so that you almost think you had heard it before.

Most of the main parts get to showcase their voices in solos and duets, and from that talent there are some special musical moments, such as Rosa Bud’s ‘Moonfall’ (Kaytie Lee), Princess Puffer’s ‘Wages of Sin’ (Anna Fiorentini), and Philip Bax’s ‘Never the Luck’ (Jonathan Norris). Fran Rafferty perfectly acts the part of the diva playing Drood, and Michael Bettell as the Reverend Mr Crisparkle, John Chapman as the drunken Durdles, and Ed O'Shaughnessy as Deputy, were pure comedy. The Landless twins (Ruth Anthony and Adrian Calvo-Valderrama) provided a more serious note and along with the Ensemble (Jennifer Quinn and Sue Brodie) provided a foil and support for the other characters.

Once Drood reaches the end of Dickens’ writing the audience is given the choice of several questions which then determine the ending of the play. Who is chosen to be the murderer, if indeed a murder has been committed, is entirely democratic (ish).

While I don’t want to give too much away - if you want to get into the Christmas spirit, and prefer your panto to be more inventive than Aladdin, I suggest you practice your cheers, boos and hisses and get down to Theatre Technis. You won’t be disappointed.

Cast:
CHAIRMAN, Mr. William Cartwright : Martin South
Miss Alice Nutting as EDWIN DROOD : Fran Rafferty
Mr. Clive Paget as JOHN JASPER : Dom Ward
Miss Deirdre Peregrine as ROSA BUD : Kaytie Lee
Miss Janet Conover as HELENA LANDLESS : Ruth Anthony
Mr. Victor Grinstead as NEVILLE LANDLESS : Adrian Calvo-Valderrama
Mr. Cedric Moncrieffe as THE REVEREND MR. CRISPARKLE : Michael Bettell
Mr. Nick Cricker as DURDLES : John Chapman
Master Nick Cricker as DEPUTY : Ed O'Shaughnessy
Miss Angela Prysock as THE PRINCESS PUFFER : Anna Fiorentini
Mr. Phillip Bax as BAZZARD : Jonathan Norris
Miss Violet Balfour as ENSEMBLE : Jennifer Quinn
Miss Florence Gill as ENSEMBLE : Sue Brodie
Production Team
Director : Ruth Sullivan
Musical Director : Edward Bell
Set Design : Michael Bettell and Ruth Sullivan
Costume Design : David Taylor
Lighting Design : Rob Irvine
Sound Design : Phillip Ley

Stage Management : Michael Bettell, Alexa Poch and Michelle Roebuck
Assistant Costume Designer : Lynda Twidale
review by Hilary Glover

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