The Watermill staged this piece of pulpy pleasure in 2017 for its 50th anniversary season, and it’s great that they’ve brought it back now. When everything else is so grim. It’s nice to see a slice of purely silly, perfectly formed and skilfully performed entertainment.
Parodying noirish murder mysteries – think Raymond Chandler meets Morecambe and Wise – at first glance Murder for Two looks like this could be quite basic, with two performers playing 13 roles and the piano, the sort of show that Oxbridge graduates put on at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe just to show off.
But it’s more than that. Joe Kinosian’s songwriting is paired with stunning lyrics by Kellen Blair, while Ed MacArthur plays a naive straight guy alongside Jeremy Legat’s virtuoso role-swapping. Under Luke Sheppard’s direction all of this is brought together incredibly tightly – it’s a superb and hilarious bit of work.
MacArthur plays a wet police detective, and the incredible Legat takes on all the other roles: the victim’s wife, a prima ballerina, a 10-strong boys’ choir. He uses the smallest gestures, like the folding of his arms and the occasional putting on of a hat, to tell us exactly which part he’s playing at any moment. On top of that he frequently takes to the piano to weave in and out of the keys with MacArthur.
There’s a brilliant sense of nonsense about the whole thing, with loads of absurd throwaway gags and non-sequiturs, not to mention the ridiculousness of them having to jump between so many different parts. The haphazard appearance belies the absolute skill of these two performers.
Gabriella Slade’s set locates it in a rundown detective’s office, and the detail from overfull filing cabinets to condensation dripping down the frosted door is amazing. All in all, it’s a killer show.