Corpse – Park Theatre, London

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Writer: Gerald Moon

Director: Clive Moon

For a play about a deadly and elaborate revenge that is 20+ years in the making, this is a remarkably gentle and enjoyable one. Full of fun exaggeration and implausibility, the four comedy stock characters dance around each other, making light work of a fiendish plot of double murder.

Hapless petty criminal “Major” Powell is hired by a poor actor to kill his richer twin brother so a well planned identity swap can take place. It’s a genuine playground for the lead actor who plays both Rupert and Evelyn Farrant, one a starving and dramatic actor type and the other a snobby financier. Tom York (making a professional stage debut after developing a great reputation on screen via Poldark) has a ball as the brothers, taking us through a story where bodies mount up, before coming back to be killed all over again. No spoilers here, but there’s a very pleasing payoff at the end.

The twisty plot of this comedy thriller is complex, despite it being extremely clear whodunnit right from the start, and allows ample time to relish the details – even if they overindulge in exposition and theatrical in-jokes at times. We could honestly do without some of the lengthy scenes with Evelyn’s widowed but amorous landlady – enjoyable though they are. Comedy comes largely from the characters. And while it feels a little am-dram at times (cooking blinis with caviar on stage makes for a pointless, but entertaining scene) if one accepts that’s just what the genre calls for, there’s no need to frown at it.

With Evelyn so deliciously camp, and clearly a bit mad, and Rupert so uptight there’s huge value in the differences, and the slick changovers by York from one to the other are just the right amount of theatrical. As Powell, however, Paul Kemp over-hams his Dublin accent (it’s in the vowel sounds) but is otherwise cracking as the confused and desperate old crim. Felicity Duncan as the lovesick landlady delivers another classic character – no depth but a joy to watch.

Clive Brill’s direction keeps things moving along with a swinging, rakish flair – hampered by the text somewhat but charming nonetheless. Working through Beth Colley’s set that swings perfectly from actor’s Soho basement to a classy penthouse we’re easily drawn into this highly pleasing world.

It’s too long, but it’s fun right the way through. The fact we know who is plotting murder from the start in no way diminishes the enjoyment of the actual foul deeds thanks to Gerald Moon’s savvy plotting. The piece first played in 1983 – maybe it’s best summed up in a word that should have gone out of fashion back then too? A romp!

Runs until 28 March 2020

The ReviewsHub Score

Gentle-paced murder-mystery romp

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