It was a dark, stormy evening outside, as I took my seat for the opening night of The Cat and the Canary at Lichfield Garrick Theatre. The inclement weather had failed to put a dampener on the spirits of the Monday night audience in attendance. Settled by the warm welcome of the theatre staff and the comfortable surroundings, 1930s melodics and atmospheric strings sought to both underpin and undermine that comfort, in anticipation of the murder mystery to come.
This production is bejewelled with recognisable talent taken from across the entertainment industry. Mark Jordon's bumbling vet was particularly well received by the audience, but all brought their prowess to the piece, creating a household of tangled familial relationships. As a whodunnit with supernatural undertones and comedic episode, the show as a whole seemed to fall between too many stools. The exposition-work ran to just shy of the interval. However, some notable action at this point roused the expectations for later, and these were satisfied in the second half with humour, intrigue and discovery, at pace.
One can often expect a touring production to travel light, but nothing was spared in terms of mise-en-scène. Beyond the plush red curtain, this proscenium stage lavishly recreated the two 1930s country manor house interiors in which the action takes place. So extensive were these sets that over two minutes of curtain-close were needed for the scene change after the interval. Nevertheless, the glorious scope and detail of these spaces gave plenty of playability for the cast, and furnished the audience with a believable and enjoyable setting for spooky shenanigans. The soundscape and lighting were equally impeccable.
The Cat and the Canary plays at Lichfield Garrick Theatre until Saturday 14 March.
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