Writer: Douglas J Cohen
Director: Robert McWhir
Reviewer: Lucy Thackray
Fringe musicals are something of a mixed bag: sometimes they’re dark and edgy, sometimes saccharine and self indulgent, sometimes witty and satirical. No Way To Treat a Lady doesn’t know what it is, but it’s taking up a respected space on the fringe with little apparent reason.
No Way To Treat a Lady tells the parallel stories of bumbling Detective Brummell and frustrate actor Kit Gill, as the former longs for a more exciting lot than his humdrum existence living with his meddling mother, but swiftly learns to be careful what he wishes for when the latter spices things up for him by going on a theatrical killing spree in a bid to finally make he headlines.
There’s a neglectful mother thread, an awkward romance, a meet-the-parents set up and several farcical dance numbers, but no one of this show’s many personalities is a winning one.
The material’s off, but the cast of four does an admirable job with it. The standout performer is Simon Loughton who, aside from resembling a murderous Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, appears believably unhinged and incredibly likeable (in a serial killer kind of way). Graham Mackay-Bruce and Kelly Burke make for an awkward couple, perhaps not quite believing in the material themselves, and lack chemistry as well as a decent tune to sing. For this score sounds just like how people who hate musicals imagine they sound – one relentless jazzy number or shapeless sung monologue after another, lots of pacing and pointing and overlapping lines, but not one magical musical or lyrical moment in what feels like an over-long show.
Judith Paris gives a star turn as no less than six different women, showing her chameleonic range in the process despite some seriously hammy stock characters. Highlights include her fussing Jewish mother, who is gifted some of the best lines, and stern, shadowy figure of Kit’s mother, lingering in the dark corners of his mind.
The first act is nearly all farce, while the second has a stab at some emotion and backstory, but the flimsy characters and anonymous score means there’s little suspense, and the throbbing basslines from the pub downstairs are almost a welcome intrusion in the quieter moments towards the end.
Musical director Nick Chave holds together a tight band, and the crowd laughs at some of the crowd-pleasing humour flung their way, but, for a murder-themed musical, No Way To Treat a Lady feels like all filler, no killer for the usually sparky Landor, not provoking much thought beyond ‘could do better’.
Runs until 9th February