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Nottingham.

MARIE LLOYD AND THE MUSIC HALL MURDER: Karen Henson.
3Stars***


National Justice Museum.
Full Info: www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk.
Runs: 1h 45m: one interval: till 28th July.
Performance times: 7.30pm (matinees Weds and Thurs 2.00pm and Sat 3.00pm),
Review: Alan Geary: 25th July 2017.


Nottingham’s Thriller Season goes site-specific. Highly entertaining.

Even had exciting developments at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal/Royal Concert Hall not made a change of venue for this year’s Thriller Season necessary, it’s an appropriate setting. The action happens in a once-functioning courtroom at what is now the National Justice Museum.

Real-life music hall artiste Marie Lloyd is on trial in Nottingham for the ‘orrible’ murder by strangulation of her lover, by all accounts a bad egg who used to knock her about a bit. There’s plenty of incriminating evidence: for one thing the weapon, a lady’s garter monogrammed with the initials “ML”, was found at the scene; and besides motive, she had plenty of opportunity. Turns out though that so did a number of other folk.

It’s a good idea to stage a courtroom clash in particular in situ; since a trial is itself the very stuff of drama, writer Karen Henson, who also directs, gives herself a head start. And audience involvement is pretty well guaranteed. But there can be problems. Here, for instance, there was some press-night uncertainty over lines, which will doubtless be cleared up for subsequent performances.

A lot of the fun is derived from insertions of extra-narrative material into the trial proper. We get super music hall sing-along from Lloyd and others. And there’s a hilarious pantomimic drag act from Andrew Ryan, as Sachet Aweigh. Even the Judge (John Lyons) stands at the bench and delivers a monologue.

And it’s a good joke when old Charlie Welkin (Jeremy Lloyd Thomas), who can’t remember anything in the witness box, turns out to have been Mapperley’s Magical Memory Man in his previous job. But, entertaining as all this is, you can’t help wanting the trial proper to proceed so as to get to the truth – did she or did she not do it?

Late-Victorian stereotypes are well observed. David Gilbrook, as the be-whiskered Barrister with a soft spot for his client, looks and sounds just right. So does Lyons’s Judge. And as a blowsy but cheerful Marie Lloyd, Susan Earnshaw probably makes her very true-to-life.

An unusual and entertaining evening in court.


The Judge: John Lyons.
Barrister: David Gilbrook.
Miss Marie Lloyd: Susan Earnshaw
Miss Claudia Dawn: Sarah Kordas.
Mr Charlie Welkin: Jeremy Lloyd Thomas.
Miss Lily Lovage: Anna Mitcham.
Miss Sachet Aweigh: Andrew Ryan.
Clerk to the Court: David Osmond.


Director: Karen Henson.
Original Music: David Gilbrook.
Costume: Geoff Gilder.
 
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