By: New Old Friends Theatre Company
Reviewer: Simon Topping
The lights dim and in the spotlight four humans dressed as hedges begin to sing a funny tune in close barbershop quartet harmony. This is the inventive beginning of the madcap and often very funny, Crimes on the Centre Court by the New Old Friends theatre company.
A comedy murder mystery takes place at The Whombledon International Tennis Tournament, where the big boss, Lord Knows, has suddenly died. His playboy son, Hugh, flies in from Monte Carlo to become the new chair of the event. Not content with the verdict of his father’s death being of natural causes, and after a mysterious accident almost ends his life too, Hugh brings in private investigators Perry and Penny Pink to uncover if there is anything backhanded going on behind all the serve and volley. Soon more deaths occur and as the tally rises so does the hilarity.
The talented cast of four; Emile Clarke, Ben Thornton, Kirsty Cox and Sedona Rose, shine in some excellent comedy skits. The singing hedges are a highlight of the show; they set the stage and recap the action for the audience as the night goes on.
An innovative use of staging and props runs throughout the play. In particular the way the cast perform the tennis rallies and action replays is very funny and inventive.
There are some costume changes faster than Superman in a telephone box (the four actors play several characters each) as well as delightful, double entendre laden alliterative tongue-twisting dialogue that has the room doubled over in laughter.
New Old Friends was founded in 2008 by Feargus Woods Dunlop and Heather Westwell, a couple from Somerset who met in Theatre Royal Bath’s foyer. Since then, they have produced an abundance of plays and podcasts within the murder-mystery-comedy genre. Here we see them adapt the successful Crimes on Centre Court podcast, which reached #2 in the iTunes fiction chart, for the stage.
Each member of the cast has their time to shine. Thornton’s fabulous tennis scenes and quick change physicality has the crowd in stitches. Cox’s characterisations are fabulously bonkers. Clarke’s portrayal of Hugh Knows is perfectly pitched somewhere between Hugh Grant and Boris Johnson and Rose is consistently funny playing a couple of the straighter roles (Although everyone in the player is marvellously hyper-real).
Barring the occasional groaning punch line and well worn comedy device, New Old Friends have produced a wonderfully silly romp of a whodunit, full of laugh out loud moments, well worth a night out.
Reviewed on 22nd September and on UK Tour