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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Aria Entertainment in Association with The Landor Theatre Present

The Mystery of Edwin Drood



by Rupert Holmes


Director - Matthew Gould


Musical Director - James Cleeve


Orchestrations by Tony Osborne


Set Design - Natasha Piper


Landor Theatre


11 April - 5 May 2012




Charles Dickens died before finishing his fifteenth novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood; his intentions for the ending remain a mystery providing a motivating force for the enchanting premise of a drama within a drama which fuels the action in Rupert Holmes' musical homage. At the 'Theatre Royale', Chairman William Cartwright (Denis Delahunt) leads the excellently rendered self-referential charge by introducing both the story and the actors who will see us through it. The action revolves around the disappearance and presumed murder of one Edwin Drood (Natalie Day) who happened to be surrounded by a number of distinguished characters with ample motive for the crime.

This solve-it-yourself musical cleverly eliminates those who can be ruled out as the intended murderer based on literary analysis of the scenes surrounding the disappearance. Although this production sets up John Jasper, (Daniel Robinson) Drood's covetous and wanton uncle, as the most likely killer, the task of constructing the ending befalls the audience for any given performance, who choose from all the viable candidates. The two characters who will form the obligatory love match at the finale are also of the audiences' choosing, with potentially hilarious results.

A talented coup of musicians under the charge of James Cleeve breeze through the songbook, and owing to the format of the production, they play a more involved role alongside the cast than can usually be expected. From the moment the Theatre doors open, the cast are switched on and engaging, leading latecomers to their seats and mingling freely with the crowd, creating a sense of familiarity that later leads smoothly into the audience's participation in choosing the outcome. In a rather hectic rally of canvassing and vote-counting the murderer is chosen after the interval, with the cast poised for even the most unlikely eventuality.

Wendy Peters as opium den proprietress Princess Puffer/Miss Angela Prystock is, on the face of it, delightfully devil-may-care but her beautifully emotional voice lays her inner turmoil bare, culminating in two of the musical highlights “The Garden Path to Hell” and “Puffer's Revelation”. Daniel Robinson's turn as Drood's Uncle, John Jasper is a brooding and troubled portrayal, with his split personality displayed to riotous comic effect. Denis Delahunt, the chairman of the show, is charming and engaging, not least when he is forced to play the role of Mayor Sapsea at last minute notice thanks to an errant actor, and his confusion at the duality is captured in a hearty rendition of “Both Sides of the Coin” alongside John Jasper.

Costumes by Jean Grey are fine, detailed and well-finished, with Princess Puffer's elaborate attire epitomising the style of the production. The arrival of dynamic brother/sister duo Helena and Neville Landless (Loula Geater and David Francis) is another opportunity for excellent costuming, which is fully realised. The set makes full use of a relatively small space and all the actors participate in undisrupted, though sometimes significant, scene changes. Fun and engaging from start to finish, The Mystery of Edwin Drood  is a wonderful evening's entertainment.

In this 200 year anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth there are a plethora of means of celebrating the great man, but no other is likely to allow each audience member such a stake in the outcome. A multi-talented cast led by Wendi Peters delight in this murder-mystery adventure and excellent direction and choreography by Matthew Gould ensures absorbing momentum.

Box Office: 0207 737 7276
Landor Theatre
70 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH
Tickets: £18 / £15 (concs)



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