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Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow review at the New Diorama, London – ‘visually arresting’

The cast of Hardboiled: the Fall of Sam Shadow at the New Diorama, London The cast of Hardboiled: the Fall of Sam Shadow at the New Diorama, London
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Rhum and Clay’s exuberant tribute to classic detective fiction understands the workings of the genre. Played with mischievous charm by Julian Spooner, Sam Shadow is a perky rookie investigator daydreaming about becoming a hard-bitten hero. With the arrival of Jess Mabel Jones’ femme fatale Scarlett, he is drawn into an investigation which erodes his optimism until he finally resembles the cynical protagonists typical of this kind of thriller.

While Beth Flintoff’s script for Hardboiled falls short of either the wit or the misanthropy of Raymond Chandler, it is pacy and entertaining, and works as both a playful parody and a solid piece of pulp fiction in its own right.

Perhaps unsurprisingly this production relies heavily on lighting effects to establish its film noir tone. Nick Flintoff washes the stage in rich sepia tones and crisp chiaroscuro.

The Lecoq-trained company craft a procession of vivid stage pictures which loom through clouds of haze. In their enthusiastic hands, a small collection of props are shifted and repurposed; it’s a technique which successfully creates the sense of watching a movie shot from multiple angles. A tilted doorframe becomes a bar propped up by drunks. A table hoisted overhead becomes the roof of a phone booth. At one point a car chase is elegantly suggested by torch beams travelling around a street map.

It all amounts to a joyful and absorbing show, as easy to get lost in as a murky alleyway on the wrong side of town.

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Playful and visually arresting homage to classic film noir