The Game’s Afoot, Try the Fish (And the Man with the Twisted Hip) – Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

Writer: Tom Taylor

Reviewer: James Garrington

Charlie Montague is, he tells us, a detective. He has been since this morning since his experience in the audience of Who Stole My Cockatoo led him to believe that it was a simple vocation for him to follow. When he is hired to prevent a murder in a seaside hotel, he meets a number of eccentric characters, male and female, all played by writer and performer Tom Taylor.

The story takes its inspiration from the classic detective novels of authors like Agatha Christie, P.G Wodehouse and Dorothy L. Sayers, crossed with the more modern and slightly surreal Cambridge Footlights-style comedy, with Taylor acknowledging the inconsistencies and absurdities in his own tale as the amateur aristocratic detective stumbles and bumbles his way to a conclusion that he seems to reach by accident.

Taylor is very good at storytelling and caricaturing British accents and personalities in the process, though his performance, as he himself recognises and jokes about, falters somewhat when he moves overseas. He is also extremely adept at reacting and responding to things going on around him, sometimes stepping out of character to make a joke, and the first half of the show is very funny as we get used to Taylor’s humour and characters. This is typical Edinburgh Fringe material, as characters are introduced, developed and the entire plot wrapped up over the course of 50 minutes.

The challenge comes when a writer/performer has the chance to develop this sort of material into a full-length show. In this case, Taylor has chosen to present a second detective story after the interval, so instead of leaving a cliff-hanger at the interval the play reaches its dénouement. So we meet a new cast of characters after the break, with a number of them having the same, or very similar, characterisation and voice to ones we have met earlier. Despite having a different plot, it all feels somewhat like a rehash of the first half and by that stage the humour in the tale has begun to pall a little.

There is no doubt that Taylor has a facility for this sort of material, and he could doubtless create an entertaining and engrossing full-length show if he could find a way of either creating a longer storyline, providing more differentiation between the two tales, or perhaps weaving the two together so the different plotlines run concurrently.

All in all, it’s an interesting and amusing evening’s entertainment, but it’s not going to set the world alight in its current form.

Reviewed on 16 September 2017 | Image: Contributed

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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