Murder For Two continues at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury until 25 February before transferring to The Other Palace Studio, from 2-18 March.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Musical parody is hardly a new initiative but in the hands of Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair it provides a quirky new genre of comedy.
Combining musical hall extravagance within a typical murder mystery format and tipping a hat to the madcap antics of the Marx Brothers, Kinosian and Blair’s music and lyrics take their inspiration from an eclectic mix of composers.
There’s more than a hint of Sondheim with a touch of ragtime and the type of observational comedy lyrics for which the late Victoria Wood was better known.
The plot encompasses The Mysterious Case of Arthur Whitney, a prolific crime writer who is shot in the dark as he enters his surprise birthday party.
Enter a promotion-seeking officer who turns detective and a host of caricatured suspects and there are all the ingredients for a typical whodunnit.
The difference here is that the 12 suspects are played by just one of the two-man cast, while both versatile performers also play piano and sing. Sometimes the playing is independent of each other, but more amusing is when they show off their musicianship together with some finely choreographed direction.
Jeremy Legat and Ed MacArthur work their way through the script, music and lyrics with a non-exhaustive energy through which they never drop their guard.
Legat plays both male and female suspects with equal assurance switching props, voices and expressions in a flurry of skilfully observed characterisations while MacArthur, as Officer Marcus, is also involved in a substantial amount of multi-tasking and takes on the role of straight man to Legat’s clown.
As the climax approaches, and the audiences is nearing to discovering who the murderer is, the madcap energy is increased to another level.
The set almost takes on the role of a third actor in a chaotic frenzy of witness interrogation and the murder mystery elements dissolve into an hysterical mush of madness.
Credit to director Luke Sheppard who has worked with this two-man cast to create vibrant energy and zany humour from opening to close, Tom Attwood for his upbeat musical direction, Gabriella Slade for her incredible set design and Chris Withers for his moody lighting.
They all provide the platform upon which the actors can perform, safe in the knowledge that together they are a winning combination.