“Have you seen a dog?”
Even before the curtain call, audience members found themselves participating with frantic cast members searching for a loose dog and rescuing an already crumbling set.
The recognisable story of The Murder at Haversham Manor is a derivative of a typical 1920’s murder mystery. Its storyline is similar to a Murder on the Orient Express or The Mousetrap and retold by archetypal characters; including the wife, the brother, the detective and the butler. In fact, the story is so familiar it allows the audience to completely ignore the plot and focus on the funny happenings around them.
The timing, the cast and the slapstick old-school comedy were impressive to watch. The acrobatic, dramatic and interactive cast were perfect at playing it straight. With an amazingly fragile set falling apart around them, I was genuinely amazed that no one was actually hurt.
Despite the Lowry audience ranging from children to seniors this comedy easily translated through the ages creating more laughter than I have ever heard in a theatre. The plays simplistic comedy shaping is flawlessly fun slapstick with an emphasis on chaos. It’s easy going British humour runs in the same lane as the Pink Panther and Mrs. Browns Boys, allowing for a natural laugh track from the audience.
I couldn’t imagine the experience would be as delightful and charming from a distance yet it's low brow humour was clearly able to carry through all tiers of the Lyric theatre. The show is not one of nuance but rather a collection of trips, slips, double takes and visual gags that are relentlessly timed and easy to follow.
In a production that constantly had the audience laughing and gasping, it was difficult to see where the plot and comedy could progress in the second half. It was soon established that it wouldn't and instead, things really fell apart. With such a repetitive formula, the second act became as satisfying to watch as an episode of You've Been Framed. You are sure to laugh but you won’t necessarily remember why.
Prat fall comedy is not to everyone's taste but this light-hearted and finely overacted homage to the murder mystery classic is a collection of old-school slapstick masterpieces that will always be in fashion.