The Cat and The Canary at The Churchill Theatre
The Cat and the Canary is a murder mystery thriller which revolves around the 6 descendants of Mr West, gathering on the 20 year anniversary of his death to find out who will inherit his large estate. When the heir is unveiled a series of events is set in motion, but all is not what it seems within the creaking manor.
Whilst the story is certainty intriguing the style it is told in is rather odd. At times there is a huge amount of tension built up, music and dim lighting heightening the mood but at other times the tension is broken with slightly farcical moments, not funny enough to laugh out loud with enough to grin and mull over if it is supposed to be funny or if it was just executed really badly. The appearance of the escaped lunatic is often an example of this, whilst his description sounds hideous, the realisation of him is far from it. The show is actually described as a comedy thriller but the issue with this is that the comedic moments were so few and far between that they felt awkward rather than purposeful.
The play also unravels itself all very quickly within the last 10 minutes and whilst it is not an ending you can easily guess I didn’t find it particularly clever or that it had tied together clues from throughout the evening.
The characters are all intriguing and written as stereotypes, from the cockney boxer played by Gary Webster to the beautiful Heroine played by Tracy Shaw and from the wet vet played by Anthony Costa to the creepy housekeeper played by Britt Ekland. The cast all did well with the material that they were given, carving out their backstories and ensuring that they were all vastly different to one another, despite the blood relationship between many of them. Some of the characters had more depth than others however due to the writing of the piece with the focus mainly on Annabelle and her 3 suiters, the aforementioned Paul- The Vet, Harry – The Boxer and also Charlie – The actor played by Ben Nealon. Marti Webb as Susan the Aunt and Priyasasha Kumari as Cicily at times felt superfluous to the plot, once again due to the writing rather than any fault of their own. Shaw stole the show as Annabelle, starting as a well respected, beautiful and successful author who by the end of the show had descended into hysteria, or as some tried to say, madness.
The set design is one of the strongest things about the piece. The action is all set in either the living room or the master bedroom of Glenthorne Manor and it has a huge sense of foreboding about it. You easily believe that it is part of a sprawling mansion with oak panelling and decor that convincingly looks as if it hasn’t been touched for 20 years. You easily believe that the entrances and exits lead off to corridors and other rooms within the house and that there are plenty of hidden nooks and crannies to be explored. The sound design by Dan Samson also adds to this, with creaking, thunder and slamming doors all helps to increase the atmosphere that the house has a mind of its own.
The Cat and The Canary struggles as it is unsure what it is, neither horror nor comedy and therefore at times an odd watch for the audience. With some tweaks it has the makings of a good thriller but the writing needs to be more subtle, the tension needs cranking up a notch and the sightings of the cat themselves needs a serious rethink.
The Cat and The Canary is on at the Churchill Theatre until 13th November. To find out more and book tickets visit their website here.