A tribute to the South West via the Wild West, Carl Grose’s new comedy opens with the death of Jed Kneebone, an infamous yarn-weaving maverick and well-reputed “arsehole”.
His only daughter has inherited his prize Cadillac, as well as a large sum of debt. Her brothers want to sell the car, she wants to enter it into a stock car race.
The Kneebone Cadillac features a host of silly characters, and a screw-tight plot complete with buried treasure and a trio of disputed fathers a la Mamma Mia!. An enjoyable subplot involving two hapless friends who get embroiled with a pair of Mancunian drug lords which takes its cue from Coen Brothers-esque screwball capers.
But where those films take delight in skidding off-road, Grose wraps up every loose end – debts are paid, relationships salvaged, lessons learnt. It’s not difficult to tell where the plot is going well before it crosses the finish line, which means that the initially high stakes can’t help but dissipate prematurely.
Simon Stokes’ production, his last as artistic director of Theatre Royal Plymouth, frames the action within Bob Bailey’s huge, messy junkyard set. The production is at its best when having fun with its occasional outrageous flourishes (a star turn for a scrapyard claw, and the entertainingly brief appearance of a Hollywood star), but for the most part the production is tamer than it maybe wants to be, more camper van than race car.