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Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow (New Diorama)

Rhum and Clay's production is a beguiling take on film noir detective thrillers

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Physical theatre company Rhum and Clay take one of the big scandals of the last 15 years and plonk it back in time. Inspired by the Enron scandal of 2001 Hardboiled follows detective Sam Shadow as he stumbles into a vipers nest of murky goings-on in the LA underbelly in 1947. Could it be that the frequent city-wide blackouts LA is suffering are not simply an issue of a dodgy connection?

Sam has taken over his dad's private dick office, but needs a break from tracking down pooches. He'd like to be a bourbon swigging enigma, but he hates the taste of the stuff and he can't say no to helping underdogs. That's until the racy, doe-eyed Scarlett Addison turns up at his door, asking him to find her missing lover. As Sam digs deeper into the life of Scarlett and her hot-shot, electricity company-owning husband, he unearths more than he bargained for.

Hardboiled plunges you into a Raymond Chandler novel. It's all trilbies, misty backstreets, booze, more booze and hourglass-shaped femme fatales who blow cigarette smoke provocatively in the face of their prey. David Harris's designs are beautifully detailed and transport you to a film noir with all its languid, sorrowful atmosphere.

Rhum and Clay trained at Jacques Lecoq and it shows. Four actors play a myriad of parts and swap between them with a skilful, comedic ease. The ensemble's manipulation of the scenery - like when a simple table is transformed into a phone booth - is beguiling. Beth Flintoff's staging is impossibly inventive and it is a vital part of what makes Hardboiled so funny, sweet and creative.

Julian Spooner plays Sam, and despite an accent that doesn't entirely convince, he makes a realistic journey from naive to world weary. Jess Mabel Jones plays every single female character and more and her expressive face and comic timing is an absolute joy to watch.

The piece drags a little in places and is in need of some tightening up plot-wise. But the fun is watching as film noir becomes 3D Technicolour in this ingenious production.

Hardboiled runs at the New Diorama until 27 February.

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