A captivating and humorous watch, Once Upon a Crime was the perfect blend between murder mystery and comedy. The deeply detailed set, creative use of lighting, and witty dialogue engendered an immersive and playful production, unafraid to dabble in the meta for help in solving the crime or cracking a joke.
Admittedly, the first half of the play was a bit slow-going as we got acquainted with each character and their background. But this ensured a thorough understanding of each bear, wolf, and person.
The pace picked up considerably
Certainly, one of the most loveable characters in the play, Daddy Bear, is the first who jumps to mind. His thrilling past as a delinquent, cleverly supplemented by the reveal of an old leather jacket, stirred things up for everyone. (Most of all Mummy Bear!) Following this, the pace picked up considerably, especially in the second half, as more shocking discoveries came out of the woodworks.
The familiar characters from fairy tales, such as the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Big Bad Wolf (amongst others), were re-envisioned in the modern world with ease. Partly due to the wonderful work of the costume design team, and the outstanding acting of the cast.
Every single actor was deeply committed to their character
From Red’s JD bag, to mentions of The Big Bad’s seedy cryptocurrency ‘business’, or Mummy Bear’s affinity for the John Lewis ‘home section’, each character was given a distinguishable quality to bring them to life. The choice to give Pied Piper an accent was particularly prudent, to showcase her status as an outsider and emphasise the mystery surrounding her character. Every single actor was deeply committed to their character, bringing forth a memorable and believable performance.
In terms of lighting and set, the extreme skill and attention to detail shone through remarkably. The Detective’s imaginative suspicions coloured in red, interspersed with an opposing blue light to depict ‘reality’ produced some clever fourth wall breaking.
Other characters were often aware of this shift, allowed to transgress between the borders. A personal favourite moment, however, was Rumpelstiltskin’s total transgression off-stage to take over the lighting, resulting in a brief but comic blackout.
Lighting and set was played up for laughs
The use of set was also cheekily self-referential, a worthy mention being the poster ‘Coffee, because murder is wrong’ which made me giggle. Overall, the use of lighting and set was played up for laughs, used expertly to engineer endearing moments of comedy.
The comedy was often bawdy or silly, altogether consistent in delivering a triumph of laugh-out-loud lines. This was largely due to the excellent writing and the comedic talent of the cast. A great example is the Big Bad Wolf’s delivery of the line “There’s a reason they call me big and bad”, which perfectly undercut the palpable tension between the Pied Piper and Detective with a well-placed double entendre.
Another shining moment was Mummy Bear’s misplaced concern for private schooling over murder, which brought a touch of social satire to the forefront of the play’s concerns. And, with the Detective’s melodramatic tendencies, there was never a dull moment on stage, allowing space for some effective slapstick.
A true labour of love
Lasting a little over 3 hours, the play was long but didn’t overstay its welcome. The enthusiastic cast, vibrant twists and winning humour are just some of the reasons this play was so marvellous. A true labour of love, you could tell the directors put a lot of thought into each meticulous output of detail.
Every loose thread was neatly tied together, every bit of dialogue was useful, and every character got an equal chance to shine. This show promises ‘something worth watching’ and delivers.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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