It’s taken 10 years for Exeter-based company Le Navet Bete to get into the Northcott Theatre and, now that they are associate artists, it doesn’t look like they’ll be leaving anytime soon. Their Northcott debut sees the resurrection of – for the very last time, their much-loved take on Dick Tracy. Known for frantically funny shows, comedy quartet Le Navet Bete brings all the ridiculousness you’d expect to this production.
Title character Dick Tracy (Dan Bianchi) is an enigmatic police detective, solving crimes, catching bad guys and doing it all for the love of the job. He’s even dating the police Chief Trueheart’s (Al Dunn) daughter Tess (Matt Freeman) and everything seems to be going well for Dick, that is until Big Boy Caprice (Nick Bunt) is released from jail. Along with his trusted cronies, Big Boy sets about a dastardly plan to take back control of the city and catastrophic comic-book chaos ensues.
The four actors perform 10+ characters with endless energy, quick costume changes and even quicker jokes. The show is bursting with examples that this is a company to be reckoned with: physical comedy, dancing, singing and biscuit tennis, it’s all in there, impeccably performed and immensely funny. It would be all too easy for these larger than life comic book characters to rely on stereotypes, but this production of Dick Tracy pulls out all the stops to make sure that doesn’t happen. Heroes are flawed, damsels aren’t constantly in distress, and the range of characterisation is genuinely impressive.
Meticulously designed in both direction and aesthetic, each set piece is not only beautifully finished, but also able to intricately fold out (or away) into something or somewhere else. Building many different settings from the same comic book cool backdrop. Despite this, the production still manages to keep a DIY feel about it, which works in its favour when something unexpected happens (balloons bursting, shoes slipping etc.). These moments of uncertainty also bring out the best in the cast and demonstrate their astonishing ability for improvisation.
Throughout the 90 minutes, we get the impression that the performers not only care deeply about what they are doing but that they also really enjoy it. Their enthusiasm and excitement are contagious, which makes it a little easier to persuade people into moments of audience participation – of which there are a few.
Gloriously creative, Le Navet Bete’s Dick Tracy is a show that the whole family will enjoy (well, maybe not the cat). There’s not just something in there for everyone, it’s all for everyone. A fast-paced farce, this is physical theatre at its best.
Reviewed on the 23 October 2016 | Image: Contributed