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Review: Dénouement! at La Mama

By Lucinda Naughton

James Hazelden’s Dénouement! entertainingly and wittily subverts the genre of ‘whodunnit’. The tight fifty-minute theatre piece begins just after the murder (hence its title), using the necessary props – an English drawing room, a missing will, an amateur detective, and, of course, a bloody knife, only to turn expectations upside down. The play completely breaks through the traditional values of the genre as it is hilariously self-aware and calls attention to its own plot-holes, and as such has the audience laughing from the opening lines.

The whodunnit genre often has the tendency to take itself too seriously, which Dénouement! plays on by refreshingly charging through the ‘stiffness’ and upper-class ideals usually depicted in the genre. For instance, the wife of the man who is murdered (played by Emily Rowe) screeches “Oh the scandal” at the thought of her husband’s case being opened for further investigation rather than simply blaming the housemaid (even though there is no proof) “because she is poor”.

The cast of six deliver highly entertaining performances. Chris Saxton hilariously pulls off the ‘idiot son’; Kathryn Tohill brings great energy and wit to her role as the wife; Mark Woodward brings mystery to the lawyer; while the two detectives played by Chris Tomkins and Kimberley Duband deliver great comedic timing and bring vigour to their roles. Perhaps the cast’s only drawback was that they occasionally didn’t wait for the audience to finish laughing.

The set has everything you need for a whodunnit English drawing room – grand couches (to hide behind), and a side table with gin and vermouth, martini glasses, and a cocktail shaker (perfect for adding poison to).

Dénouement! is beautifully directed by James Hazelden and written by Hazelden and Nicholas Rasche. Hazelden and Rasche take the audience on a surreal journey that only builds in ludicrousness. The script is witty and fresh, keeping the audience guessing and trying to understand the absurdities that take place – only to be surprised.

I would definitely recommend attending Dénouement!, it’s a great performance!

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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