Mystery Radio Theatre aims to be a live performance in the style of a radio play. The night on which you attend will determine which of three possible “comedy mystery plays” you will see. Alternatives are Whodiddendunnit – a spoof of Agatha Christie mysteries; Adventure of Smuggler’s Cove – a spoof of Enid Blyton adventures; and on the review night, Murder Me Again, My Darling – a spoof of 1940s private eye thrillers.
Melbourne has seen a few attempts to recreate radio plays in recent years. These have led us to expect certain historical features, such as a word from the sponsor, or live sound effects. Mystery Radio Theatre has the latter, having a bench at front of stage loaded with various objects. Yet, many of these aren’t employed, and the potential novelty seems somewhat unrealised.
The (uncredited in the programme) ensemble – Chris Saxton, Chris Tomkins, Mark Woodward, Frank Handrum, Fleur Murphy, Anna Renzenbrink and Vaughn Rae – all work hard adopting accents for various characters and deliver their lines crisply.
The story written by James Hazelden and Nicholas Rasche is solid. Having private eye Jake Steele live with his parents gives some good comedic opportunity. He’s employed to clear damsel in distress Verity from continuing suspicions of murder following an unproven court case. The piece lacks the grit I had hoped for in a Film Noir tribute. However, Steele’s scenes with Verity are often amusing.
Murder Me Again, My Darling seems to need some sharpening of focus and thought on structure. We have an unfamiliar host with an Anglo-sounding name, wearing a velvet smoking jacket and speaking like an Eastern European count. A musical interlude (on this night Man Bites God, the guest act will depend on the night) is shoehorned between acts of the play without any justification, and their song bears no relationship to the story. And, the play’s title seems chosen more for the purpose of parody than its relationship to the action.
Mystery Radio Theatre is more slanted towards mystery than comedy, and so seems more suited to a Fringe Festival. However, the piece had some decent laughs due to the odd unexpected line, such as those describing a peculiar kind of violence promised by henchmen when Steele starts to make progress with his case. More of this unpredictability will better reward those prepared to spend their shoe leather on the trail to La Mama.
Mystery Radio Theatre
La Mama, 205 Faraday St, Carlton
Performance: Thursday 31 March 2016 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 10 April 2016
Bookings: (03) 9347 6948 or online at: www.lamama.com.au
For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.
Image: Mystery Radio Theatre – photo by Mark Woodward
Review: Jason Whyte