“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine,” was the smoky, dingy, dame-filled Casablanca atmosphere the puppet-master performers of A Dick Privet Mystery went for and achieved it in a brilliant, inventive show at Burdall’s Yard. 

Based on the 1940/50s film noir American TV detective shows (see: trench coat, tipped hat and cigarette in mouth whilst standing under a foggy streetlamp), this globally-recognisable mystery saw our stereotypical Dick hunting down a missing person, whilst the eponymous singing Dame latches on to him for her “ticket outta here”.

 

The movie Casablanca is more film noir style than film noir itself, and this is the overall effect the team behind this puppet fringe show infused into their story. There were some sharp, funny observations of American accents and 1940s TV show idiosyncrasies, such as the never-ending “smoke” on the streets, hilariously put to use during some scenes and lots of shooting of bad guys.

 

The music for the show really improved the scene-setting; it was gin joint “dark jazz” mixed with fast-paced, 1950s Big Band and really brought scenes, such as the comedy car chase, alive.

 

It takes great skill and practice to make puppets show emotions and tell a story, which was achieved here. However, the male performer, Pod, did miss his lines quite a few times which made some scenes feel stunted. On the flip-side, Pod’s gentle approach to “manning” the puppets came across as respectful and passionate, along with Emily’s too. The overall spectacle of the show – with huge suspension bridge in the background, where small puppets were used in a cinematographic genius stroke, to visually depict “distant” scenes that started as “close-up” scenes at stage front, was very clever.

 

The production team clearly put a lot of time, thought and effort into creating the props and scenery (including a fantastic entire nightclub bar inside an old suitcase) and the music accompaniment to make a quality, funny and atmospheric pastiche film noir show.
Starring: Emily Lequesne, Pod Farlow

Music: Simon Crompton
***** (5 Stars)

Anthony Burt