A stately music room in London, 1924. Composer and evictee Geoffrey Tempest (Luke Bateman) prepares to present, to a select few, a rehearsed reading of his latest musical play based on the legend of Faust.
Due to health and safety issues at a famous hotel, his original cast are unable to appear. Thus his shadowy patron Prince Lucio Rimânez (Michael Conley) and resident Woman (Molly Lynch) team with pianist Amiel (Stefan Bednarczyk) to present the show. A show which appears to unfold not as written.
Bateman and Conley have created a chamber comedy-musical mixing a period setting with some neat side-swipes at modern showbusiness. The patter between them can be sometimes arch and amusing, friends sharing a joke which adds warmth to a very large room (Brocket Hall, in fact, borrowed for the occasion).
The overall effect is very British, a sort of Roaring 20s ancestor of “The Play That Goes Wrong” – one half expects it to be Chris Bean’s Great Grandfather directing the chaos rather than Adam Lenson.
That said, it takes rather a long time to set up the story in a way that the audience appreciates the detail. A truly terrible, oft repeated, opening melody and excruciating lyric are not funny enough to be satirical and carry the show forward to a point where it begins to be interesting. Still, perseverance is reasonably well rewarded in due course.
“Tartarus” marks the turning point, an amusing solo for Conley, and adjusting the pace for the ensemble act one closer “Tonight Is All About Sin” – repeated to good effect later in the show.
At the piano, the supposedly mute Ameil gets a confusing song (explained later in the show when the authors apparently realise), and Molly Lynch uses a talent for accents to good effect as required.
Lynch at one point suggests buying and naming a hat for every bad review. This does not require a trip to Luton, and once past the first twenty minutes even lingering by the baseball caps isn’t really necessary. The show is under-developed in terms of the pace by which secrets are revealed. It is also unsure whether to be a spoof, satire or light comedy. This combination of contradictions needs further pondering if the production is to progress beyond a filmed idea.
Still, the performances are strong and there is scope to expand if the book can be strengthened by solving the problems it creates for itself. Perhaps a little devilish re-writing may be in order...
Photo credit: Jane Hobson. Used by kind permission.