Cuppers - Whodunnit?

Wed 7th November 2012


Victoria Ibbett

at 09:15 on 10th Nov 2012



This pastiche of a Poirot whodunnit was great fun. It charts the comic endeavours of Poirot and his over enthused side kick, Captain Arthur Hastings to discover the murderer of their aristocratic host from amongst a band of suspects including a sweet maid; creepy butler; sexy Lady Oppalforth, and politically invested guest. Its premise was light hearted, and the performance was certainly very funny. This was mostly due to the high energy of the cast and certain touches of direction, set and costume that were absolute gold.

As a comedy, the humour was located in both the dialogue and in slapstick. The performance shuttled between loquacious comic exchanges– the butler’s speeches were a study in how many puns on and references to murder you can get into a plea of innocence - and lively physicality. Hastings was a bundle of nervous energy, leaping and ducking about and around the attractive suspect, Lady Oppalforth. The climactic denouement of the investigation was a combination of both: Poirot hurling deductions at the rest of the cast to a chorus of outraged and accusatory gasps.

Perhaps because of this high octane dynamic, the tone of the performance was too uniformly extreme. The climax, when it came, was dramatic, but would have been more so had the pace been steadied and worked up more gradually. On this point: the undercut of the climax, when Poirot’s deductions are farcically overturned, was rendered less effective because it was such a total change of tenor. It had no initial level to return to and so struck an awkward rather than hilarious note; a disappointing way for such a promising performance to end.

The set was great, although occasionally the split scene that it engendered forced an overcrowding of one side of the stage. Stage right was a bridge table and stage left was another table intended to represent an office. This was ostensibly fine, but in practice became quite awkward. The death of the host, occurring extreme stage left, was forced to the very periphery of the stage and the clustering of all the actors around his body simply looked bad. That this continued for a few minutes only served as emphasis of this point. A greater consideration for the overall balance of the space on stage would serve the director well on his next endeavor.

That said, there were a few touches that were brilliant: most memorably, the use of a series of magazines in the office. Whilst Hastings ushers in suspect after suspect to the interview, Poirot uses the downtime to entertain the audience by reading journals like ‘Murder Monthly’ and ‘Homicide and Homes’. A simple touch, but effective.

In all, Balliol’s Whodunnit? was generally very funny, carried through with verve by thick-accent-wielding; frenetically energetic cast members. A good example of Cuppers drama.


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