Murder on the Battersea Barge*** (Battersea Barge, 17 June 2013)

Posted: June 19, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

A pantomime in June and a floating one too. Christmas certainly has come early this year. The Battersea Barge is an unlikely dining and cabaret venue, moored along the River Thames, with a cramped dining area on the lower deck sandwiched between a small stage and, most essentially on this occasion, a well-stocked bar. The show is a pastiche of 1920s-set whodunnits, beginning shortly after the death, in a mysterious knitting accident, of the lady of the household. The family gathers for the reading of the will and it is not long before the sister of the deceased, who has a penchant for bursting into George Formby songs, chokes on her own ukelele. Many more victims follow, but the show has an admirably green policy of re-cycling the actors and bringing them back as fresh characters, except that, when no-one can be found to play the butler, an audience member stands in; as he quickly meets his demise, it is not a spoiler to reveal that the butler definitely did not do it. The evening is mostly a non-stop bombardment of risqué jokes, double entendres and cross dressing, without an ounce of subtlety in sight. We know what we are in for as soon as we take to the water and, with adequate stocks of fries to nibble and Prosecco to sip, we are happy to go with the flow so long as the river is not too choppy. Paul L Martin seems to have been chiefly responsible for putting all this together and he makes a formidable dame, delivering a range of new malapropisms that Sheridan would have been proud of and leading the audience in a rousing chorus of Yes We Have No Bananas. He is joined by what is described as the cream of London cabaret and could just be that; they are Laurie Hagen, Jamie Anderson, Tricity Vogue, Champagne Charlie and Dusty Limits, who all perform with great gusto and it is they who make the evening worthwhile. Their performances include some excellent singing and dancing, demonstrating that the show could have benefitted from rather more music and less “plot”. The denouement seems interminable, but thankfully, when any of the characters takes the mystery too seriously, another shouts out “get on with it, they (the audience) don’t care about any of this”, which is really the point, we don’t. We just wallow in the broad humour and, for the most part, the only thing inhibiting our laughter is fear that that we could rock the boat just a little too much.

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