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The Murder Game

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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This seems a wilfully bizarre choice of new play at the King’s Head: a New Orleans romantic thriller featuring the wobbly marriage of a glamorous judge and her district attorney husband, a serial adulterer with political ambitions, as well as an office gofer with a gambling habit, a Brazilian footballer with a penchant for Agatha Christie, and a hired assassin.

The hit man turns up in a crinkly bald wig, prances round the stage with the office boy and turns out to be a camp old actor. As the leads are played by the ever gorgeous Josefina Gabrielle and the ever handsome Michael Praed, and there’s a fair amount of bitchy banter, the whole thing is like a cheap re-run of His Girl Friday hijacked by the local am dram society.

A bomb goes off, guns are waved around, Praed and Gabrielle, cleverly evoking Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as Randall and Katherine Kelly, dress elegantly for dinner and sing along with Frank Sinatra in “My Way,” and the escaped prisoner (or is it?) who’s threatening Katherine for sending him down, breaks into her office covered in bandages like the Invisible Man, or perhaps the “A-bomb-inable” Snowman.

Patrick Clancy as the overgrown office boy tries to curry favour with some desperate grimacing and exit lines, the pick of which is, “As they say in Russia... Moscow!” And the lustrous, dark-haired Gabrielle asks of her spouse if the new blonde in his life has cuffs matching her collar.

The author, James Farwell, is a New Orleans attorney and political consultant, fortunate indeed in securing the polished services of Gabrielle and Praed, the competent direction of John Tillinger and the sleek design of King’s Head veteran Nigel Hook.

But this is one of those comedies just about good enough for the fringe and too bad for anywhere else. It sucks, basically, and the stumbling use of video clips inserted to make the American connections in legal procedure and political campaigning is almost embarrassingly half-hearted. Ben Jones is suitably revolting as the Brazilian charmer and Matt Healy graduates convincingly from bald Soprano to fluffy, arm-flapping thesp.

- Michael Coveney


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