As something of a Dickens obsessive, I have struggled to ever find anything on stage which comes close to his timeless characterisation and superb naming of the wealth of personalities who appear in his works. The eccentricity and perfect parodying of some of the characters in his novels have never really been replicated with any degree of success for me.
Until Saturday night.
Performing for just one night at The Old Joint Stock in Birmingham was LoveHard, a comedy duo who write and perform their own work.
Tyler Harding and Jacob Lovick's latest tour de force, Murdered By Murder, is set in the home of Lord and Lady Titan in 1930's Devon, ominously named Drenchblood Heights. The production is about 5 guests who turn up to attend a murder mystery evening at the aforementioned creepily named residence, who number Mayor Turnbridge, the local Vicar and Reverend Bellsniff and his rather strange wife, and an extremely annoying, rather dim and pretentious couple called Fortescue Butch Cassidy and Arabella Aribata.
They are all ably attended by a butler appropriately named Shivers and later on we are introduced to the detective who has to come to the residence when the murder mystery evening turns sour, Alistair Bye, nicknamed Ali Bye.
As a backdrop to the murder mystery, there is some consternation among the guests about a jewel thief who is on the prowl in the vicinity.
There is some well performed and appropriately arranged keyboard music in the background at the right moments, which adds to the quality of the production, provided by Nick Charleworth.
The two writers/performers portray all the parts between them. It is an absolute masterclass in characterisation; they move between all the characters which they are playing with ease and professionalism, leaving the audience alternately rolling with mirth and in genuine suspense awaiting the next twist in the tale. There are some beautifully choreographed moments (such as the comedic flash backs which help the audience remember the different elements of the story) and some quite hilarious ad lib-ing and improvisation, which includes them both reminding each other where the fictitious door is on the stage.
What is also astounding is the depth of characterisation which is achieved by the superb writing. As the performance unfolds, we learn of all the different foibles affecting the guests, and all the secrets which they are hiding. With shades of 'Abigail's Party' ringing in our ears, we watch as all the lives of the people unfold before us with excellent comic timing and pace, and there are no 'loose strings' at all by the end.
I must confess to never having seen anything quite as unique as this. The energy which they both inject into the performance is astounding, and it truly seems like there more actors on the stage than just the two of them.
It is not surprising that they won awards at the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe runs in 2016.
It was said of Dicken's masterpiece 'The Pickwick Papers' that there was a 'sense of the Gods gone wandering in England'. 'Murdered By Murder' is right up there and wandering alongside those same Gods; I'm sure Dickens himself would have been full of praise for this production.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.