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Review: Murder For Two, Watermill

Murder For Two is described as: ‘Agatha Christie meets the Marx Brothers over a game of Cluedo’. Intrigued? Me too. So on a dark, wet night – suitably creepy for murder – I joined a packed house at The Watermill in Newbury to see the typical English whodunnit turned on its head for 90 mad-capped minutes.

The show was a huge Off-Broadway hit, so it’s fantastic for The Watermill to kick off its 50th anniversary season with the UK premiere before Murder For Two transfers to the bright lights of London.

What’s all about? Well, it’s a musical murder mystery story with just two actors. Yep, you heard that right… TWO actors! One plays the detective (Ed MacArthur) – you could argue he got the easy gig; the other (Jeremy Legat) plays all 12 suspects. As if that wasn’t enough they both play piano in addition to the obvious singing/ acting duties. Sound bonkers? Well it is. The pace is fast, frenetic, but definitely fun.

Written by two young Americans Joe Kinsman and Kellen Blair, Murder For Two follows the structure of a classic whodunnit with a dollop of Marx Brothers absurdist comedy for good measure. The typical stately home Christie chintz has been swapped for the New England mansion of American pulp-fiction writer Arthur Whitney. The surprise birthday party organised by his wife Dahlia doesn’t go so well when a shot is fired in the dark and her husband is found dead on the floor with a bullet to his head. But who pulled the trigger? Marcus Moscowicz the neighbourhood cop (with ambitions of becoming detective) investigates.

MacArthur and Legat are without doubt incredibly talented and draw you in the minute they bound on stage. Lagat is brilliant. Whether he is playing fading southern belle Dahlia Whitney, seductive ballerina Barrette, psychiatrist Dr Griff or the author’s niece, a mildly irritating wannabe criminologist, he seamlessly switches character with a turn of a hat, a pair of spectacles, the creative use of an umbrella or hand gesture. It is both hilarious and mesmerising to watch.

MacArthur is the perfect straight man to the madness and Luke Sheppard’s direction is precise so that every tiny movement is fabulously slick. It works because of the relationship between Legat and MacArthur whom, under Sheppard’s expert guidance, have worked tirelessly to bring order to chaos.

If you like your theatre to be light and full of laughs then Murder For Two is perfect. The actors are highly skilled and it’s so blinkin’ wacky you get sucked in whether you like it not. London audiences will undoubtedly love it too when it transfers to The Other Palace in March. But then you can smugly say you saw it here, at The Watermill, first.

Murder For Two runs at The Watermill, Newbury until Sat 25 Feb.





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