Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Cauliflower Homicide: A Love Story

Mainstage Theatre Company
Peacock Theatre
February 9-12

Ever wondered what would happen if you took a giant cauliflower, a confessional, a CWA band, feet that kiss, a rooftop gift of love, and a selectively handicapped electro-funk keyboardist, and tossed them all together with a dash of funny and a pinch of poignant?

First-time writer Sarah Hodgetts manages to pack an awful lot into this script – it is consistently funny, frequently sweet, and enthusiastically wacky – and in this production for Mainstage, she also takes on the roles of actor and director. While her performance is amusing, sincere, and poised, and the direction sound, it is in the text that Hodgetts excels.

The script is well-structured and paced; for a first work, plot twists and complexities, comic timing, and dialogue are all handled with unexpected grace and confidence. The humour is both absurd and honest, and even the more ridiculous of narrative and character developments are, for the most part, within the realm of suspended disbelief. (Several moments and a few repetitive character habits could still do with refinement.)

Hodgetts, as the earnest, naive Edie, is supported by David Adlam as Fergus (an anxiety-ridden but gentle priest-in-training, whose ‘wildest dreams’ are surpassed by chips which come hot, and by being ‘outside after dark’ and near ‘some shrubbery’); Don Gay (as Clive, a bumbling, not-quite-as-holy-as-thou priest; and Paul Levett as a truly repulsive (in the best way), sleazy would-be entrepreneur.

The script and performances are somewhat let down by rather lacklustre production values, and by a slight uncertainty of genre (it’s there in the title: is this a comic love story or a clever murder mystery?). Mostly, the script is sure of itself, and it is the laughter which takes precedence, but several moments require a more dramatic engagement from the audience: a challenge not always met. But the humour in the lines and the energy with which these four actors deliver them almost makes up for it. Adlam is distinctly (occasionally unbearably) Basil Fawlty-esque, physically and emotionally embracing Fergus’s quirks and despatching the role with great vigour. Levett is wickedly funny, Gay thoroughly enjoys Clive’s moral contradictions, and Hodgetts is always watchable.

Oh, and there’s a scene with milk crates, plastic buckets, cooking pots, drum sticks, and cheerful gusto which can’t fail to impress.

This is a genuinely entertaining piece of writing well worth supporting. Long live the cauliflower.

Anica Boulanger-Mashberg

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