A Shoddy Detective & The Art of Deception – New Wimbledon Studio

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Writers: Mitch Donaldson, Josh Thompson, Lucy Wordsworth, Zach Devereaux, Oliver Mulvey and Megan Froud

Most of us will have a soft-spot in our cultural hearts for a detective story set in a large country house. Endless possibilities, even if he or she is not French or Belgian.

So there’s goodwill galore at the outset of this farcical sendup of crime and detection, aided greatly by the cast welcoming us to the theatre and messing around before the show starts. Children laugh, adults chuckle. This benevolent feeling lasts the full way through, rewarding gloriously bad puns, surprisingly on-the-nose innuendo and classic slapstick hijinks. It’s not enough to overcome the weaker points in the production, but leaves a warm feeling nonetheless.

It’s set within a large stately home, that of Lord Raeburn, on the morning of his fine art auction. Gasp! A priceless painting has been stolen, it seems, and the man to get it back is disgraced detective Brian Taylor. Ignominiously, he’s paired with master thief Dusty Wills to solve this crime, and the two of them rake through the manor’s staff and guests to uncover all secrets laying hidden. Will they find the painting? Will they find more than they bargained for?

The four actors (Becky Bartram, Mitch Donaldson, Luke Rose, Jordan Stratton) gamely cycle through a whirl of accents (mostly keeping them steady) and characters. The chaotic, ramshackle feeling has its charms, but it begins to feel quite ad-libbed, a sense of searching for direction before something clicks and they can get underway again. Pressing on the same comedy button repeatedly (wordplay with names, stock gags) means the zip is lost at the beginning of the final third – their search for the criminal is too drawn out, too rote.

It does, however, all come together despite the snags. It’s witty, endearing and (punchy innuendos aside) good clean fun. We should be lenient on the scatty quality it shows. It is, after all, a “Shoddy” detective story – it seems they know their craft well.

Reviewed on 22 June 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Witty, endearing and good clean fun

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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