The Lion and Unicorn is fast becoming one of my favourite new fringe venues. I was there on Sunday, arriving early because of a gap in a multi-show day, and I knew it’d be a lovely spot of have some food. I was right, their vegetarian roast was delicious.
Anyway, I digress, I was there to see ‘A Shoddy Detective & the Art of Deception’ by Shoddy Theatre. From the invitation I knew I was in for a night of comedy and they certainly delivered. ‘A Shoddy Detective’ is pure parody, leaning into the heritage of shows like ‘The 39 Steps’.
Our hapless detective is on the trail of a priceless stolen painting. He is forced to partner up with the very criminal he is famous for capturing after he suffers the shame of having the painting stolen from under his very nose.
Entering the theatre space at the Lion and Unicorn we are greeted by Lord and Lady Raeburn, in the presence of the abrasive Russian, Anastasia Bramovitch. The laughs start straight away, with our over-eager hosts being ever so solicitous, while Bramovitch berates stragglers to”HURRY UP AND SIT DOWN”
While Josh Thompson (our Detective Brian Taylor) and Zach Devereux (his nemesis, the American criminal Dustin Wills) have the luxury of playing one part each, understandable as they need to focus on the important task of investigating the mystery of the missing painting, all of the remaining characters are split between Lucy Wordsworth, Oliver Mulvey, Megan Froud and Mitch Donaldson. Quick changes and split costumes are very much a fabric of the comedy in true parody style.
Shoddy Theatre company was formed in 2018, following the successful graduation of the six Company Members from East 15 Acting School’s Acting and Stage Combat BA. This knowledge of stage combat is very apparent in this production, as there is a phenomenal all cast fight scene that had the audience howling with laughter. I dread to think how many injuries there were rehearsing that one scene, but it was well worth it. Amazing what they could do in such a small space.
Props and costumes are used to heighten the comedy. The cast throw themselves into their varied parts with great comedic gusto. The whole thing is gloriously silly and slapstick, with plot twists galore and a satisfying denouement.
Unfortunately I saw ‘A Shoddy Detective’ on its closing night, so it’s too late to catch it at the Lion and Unicorn, but if you love a good parody it is well worth grabbing a ticket if it pops up at a theatre near you. I’ll certainly be interested in seeing what future stories Shoddy Theatre have up their sleeves. It’s good to laugh.