As the debut work of Joe Kinosian (music and book) and Kellen Blair (lyrics and book), Murder for Two promises a night of comedic entertainment during which two actors portray a cast of 13 characters, all of whom are entangled in a murder mystery, whilst playing the piano. I had never heard of this show before but the premise immediately intrigued me. I will endeavour to, whilst stating my opinions regarding the ending and particular plot points, I will not spoil any big twists or reveals as they’re put forward in the show.
Ed MacArthur (Officer Marcus) and Jeremy Legat (The Suspects) give performances which literally bleed, no pun intended, with talent. While their characters are suitably one dimensional, and more similar to caricature, for the comedic tone, each injects a certain spark of life into them which ensures each character is kept separate, particularly in Legat’s case as he effortlessly manoeuvres the constant shifts in character. However, I will say that any indication of time setting could have been established more clearly as two of the female characters were quite grating in terms of their personalities.
As the press for this show also suggests, they are both incredibly talented piano players. You could come to see this show simply to watch them play the piano and still be completely entertained for the evening. The encore on the piano was amazing and any piano fans or musicians need to see this show.
When I saw the show, we did have a couple of complete character breaks caused by rogue sound effects or lines being misplaces, however, these actually added to the charm of the show. These moments made it clear that when you come to see this show you’re coming to see two actors who at least, to me, seem to get on very well and are enjoying themselves at work. It’s a lovely thing to see on stage especially in a show like this which relies so heavily on the skills of only two actors. There is also a moment of audience participation, and a few more of fourth-wall breaking, so these moments become almost unrecognisable from the set lines of the show.
The comedy is strongest in its punchlines mostly delivered by MacArthur as he rangles to keep the suspects under control. There were a few gag repetitions, however, overall this show offers a lovely entertaining escapist form of comedy. The music, whilst not in the form of standout songs as they more blended into the piano skills and comedic style of particular characters, was also very entertaining and I especially enjoyed ‘Process of Elimination’.
Another aspect which pleasantly surprised me was the narrative created around the murder. Centring around the concept of the murder victim being a novelist consolidating information about his ‘friends’ into his novels, the plot moves follow a logical course of action whilst also taking the chaos onboard. Whilst, possibly due to the mix of murder mystery and straight comedy, it is not used to its fullest effect the story was genuinely intriguing and could have easily transferred to a straight dramatic murder mystery play. The twist, always a delicate matter especially in a show so centred on comedy, is actually very satisfying and, in terms of the theatricality of the show especially, makes sense.
Overall, I completely agree with the quote, “if the board game Cluedo has ever reminded you of one of Agatha Christie’s country house whodunits, the award-winning Murder for Two should be right up your street”, found in the programme. The show immediately reminded me of a game of Cluedo and the comedy and intriguing plot only added to the enjoyment. Even if you go along and find the comedy not particularly to your taste, this show still has you covered with the amazing piano skills and friendship between MacArthur and Legat.
Murder for Two is running at Cardiff’s New Theatre until Saturday, October 27th and you can buy your tickets for the rest of the run here: http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/murder-for-two/
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