The Independent London Newspaper
16th April 2014

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THEATRE: The Murder Before Christmas at the Old Red Lion

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Dead funny: The Murder Before Christmas

The Murder Before Christmas at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Published: 13 December, 2012
by ADAM DOLAN

THE Murder Before Christmas employs the classic dramatic device of a play-within-a-play, in which we observe the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s attempt, and subsequent failure, to stage a yuletide murder mystery.

Created and performed by the Mischief Theatre Company, The Murder is quite simply fantastic.

The script isn’t just funny; it’s remarkably creative and clever. The dialogue is fast-paced and hilarious with more jokes per minute than I’ve ever witnessed in a play. And the physical comedy is some of the funniest I’ve seen this side of a Marx Brothers film.

Even the deliberately ill-designed set becomes a character in its own right. It’s clear from the opening line that an amazing deal of care and attention went into this production.

Henry Shields puts in an impressive turn as Chris Bean, the ambitious new president of the drama society. Bean also has a significant role as Inspector Carter in the play-within-a-play and Shields is remarkable both when he’s acting, and when he’s acting as though he’s acting.

His comedic timing is flawless, and his subtlety, sincerity, and earnest delivery makes Christopher a wonderfully three-dimensional and captivating character.

Charlie Russell is similarly impressive as Sandra Egelton, a highly theatrical and melodramatic young actress with delusions of grandeur. Flouncing around the stage like a second-rate Vivien Leigh, Russell puts her entire body into her performance, and that’s no hyperbole. At times I was genuinely concerned for Ms Russell’s physical well-being.

The bottom line is that The Murder Before Christmas is quite simply one of the finest, funniest plays I’ve ever had the good fortune to attend. Fast, clever, hilarious, and amazingly well performed, I really can’t recommend this production highly enough. And do make sure you stay for the Q&A session at the end.

UNTIL DECEMBER 29
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