Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Who murdered Lady Fanshawe? This homage and spoof of a mystery begins with an apology. Most of the actors, with props and set are stuck on the hard shoulder of the M6. In the tradition of the theatre both Sir Gavin Robertson and Sir Nicholas Collett, decided to finish the journey and make sure that the show will go on. And shorthanded and without much of the frippery they have made the best of what they have as they solve the murder of Lady Fanshawe with the aid of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.
There are two things at play here. Firstly, the homage to the genre and secondly the vehicle through which it has been delivered. The artifice of there being a disaster looming as the van broke down manages to provide us with the why there is no scenery and why there are costume and prop challenges. It works. The storyline of the murder and how it is solved between all 4 classic detectives works well because, though it is a homage, it plays to the strengths of it. We get Miss Marple from the Body in the Library nipping to Somerset House and Poirot’s Orient Express conundrum redressed as our plot.
Both actors are fine examples of their creed. That they have found themselves in a medium which suits them perfectly makes our joy all the more widespread. It is not Brecht, but it is not Ian McKellen in Vicious either. Their ribbing each of the other is tremendous and adds to the plot as we also get to hear the machinations of a touring company as well as the petty jealousies that can bubble and threaten but often just bubble back down again.
The set is exactly that – a set. Despite it being half of one it functions and makes the backdrop equal to the performances in front of it. Costume is a challenge they struggle to maintain as they have to play both male and female roles. The accents become quite the leitmotif and the request for people to sit down a running gag. Comic timing is impeccable.
The other running gag of the sound cues also adds to the mayhem and not the chaos. There is no chaos, and it is clear that this is in very skilled hands. For spoofs and homage pieces to work, they need to love their source material. It is clear that here we have a couple of troupers enjoying the opportunity to show off and we are all the better for it.