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Crimes on the Christmas Express review at Lichfield Garrick Theatre – ‘a good-natured romp’

The cast of Crimes on the Christmas Express at Lichfield Garrick Theatre. Photo: Pamela Raith The cast of Crimes on the Christmas Express at Lichfield Garrick Theatre. Photo: Pamela Raith
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Comedy-theatre company New Old Friends follow last year’s Crimes Against Christmas with a new festive caper for the Lichfield Garrick, Crimes on the Christmas Express. Channeling heist movies and Agatha Christie, it’s an innocent, good-natured romp which follows a circus family, a con-man, an interpol officer, two crusty old rich men and their respective jewels. Stick them all on a train together and funny stuff is bound to happen, right?

The best bits are the cleverly choreographed, endearingly sloppy physical theatre sequences – a train-top chase with plenty of fake snow-chucking (a running gag) stands out – but this invention isn’t carried through in the dialogue or plotting, which lacks the speed-of-light storytelling that the comedy pastiche form seems to invite. At two-and-a-quarter hours, it’s about double the length it ought to be: it would appear we’re stuck on the slow train to Moscow.

The multi-roling cast of four are never less than watchable, though. Jonny McClean’s mild-mannered valet and his equally meek co-worker Stephanie (Heather Westwell), desperately and silently in love, provide the funniest scenes with their horrifically awkward silences. All this and there are magic tricks too. There are plenty of delights to be had in this show – they just need packaged a bit more efficiently.

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Cleverly choreographed, if overlong, comedy Christmas crime caper