New Old Friends defy logic and the laws of mathematics by proving four into 14 goes very nicely indeed.

Crimes Of The Christmas Pudding

Lichfield Garrick Studio


New Old Friend’s Theatre Company’s latest spoof homage to the work of one Agatha Christie offers a refreshing alternative to the more traditional Christmas offering of the good old panto.

Now into its third year of association with the Lichfield Garrick, the company provides a more intimate but immensely rewarding piece of theatre that sits well in the cosier studio environment.

I am a huge fan of studio theatre. There is a perception that its somehow a poor relation of main house theatre. It’s not. At its best, it is able to break down the ‘ them and us’ feel of large auditoriums and make an audience feel almost privileged to be so close to the action.

No nuance is lost, no facial expression wasted and every utterance is magnified. Its so much more about the acting than any reliance on complex sets or special effects.

The Garrick studio with its steeply banked seating creating an almost gladiatorial experience as the audience look down on to the acting space, is not without its challenges. Actors need to establish where the best sightlines are and playing to every side is key to keeping everyone involved and included. It’s a challenge that only increases when there are as many scene changes as there are here but this company clearly know the space and use it well.

The story is pretty straightforward as most in this genre are. A murder occurs. A detective (from Belgium, of course, in a nod to a certain Monsieur Poirot) brings the main suspects together and after the usual red herrings and unexpected twists, the killer is revealed. It’s an age-old formula that still puts bums on seats. It’s also a formula that is perfect for sending up.

The four strong company clearly revel in taking on a whole host of usual suspects, combining strong physical comedy with a range of nicely observed characterisations that flip and change at lightning pace.

The Brummie Butler;;the nymphomaniac lady of the manor; the posher than posh spoilt brats in matching jumpers; the ex public school toff . . . just a few of the unhinged inhabitants of a world that crosses The League of Gentlemen’ with ‘Downton Abbe’.

Jill Myers, Steven Rostance, Oliver Malam and Laura Crowhurst work their yuletide socks off and never let the pace drop as they serve up a whole host of beautifully drawn misfits.

It really is all about the performances here. The set, such as it is, is minimal and serves to assist the setting of various location rather than to provide any permanent back drop. It’s clearly a piece with its roots in fringe theatre and none the worse for that.

If you like your comedy a touch surreal and are looking for something different to the wall to wall outbreak of pantomania, this should certainly be on your radar this Christmas. Studio theatre of the highest calbre -it’s good to see it back. To 05-01-2019

Tom Roberts


(See Lichfield Garrick website for dates and times) 

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