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Review: AN UNEXPECTED TALE IN SMOKY MIDTOWN, Canal Café Theatre

Review: AN UNEXPECTED TALE IN SMOKY MIDTOWN, Canal Café Theatre

This scratchy comedy infused with typically noir tropes is the debut production of Stage Noir, who set off to increase neurodiverse representation in theatre.

Review: AN UNEXPECTED TALE IN SMOKY MIDTOWN, Canal Café Theatre A threatening mobster, a psychic flapper girl, a Russian spy, and two detectives walk into a bar. A stand-off ensues. Suddenly, we're taken back in time to see how exactly we got there.

Amanda Elizabeth Rischel writes a scratchy comedy infused with typically noir tropes. Directed by Rosie Frecker, it's the debut of Stage Noir, a group of East 15 alumni who set off to increase neurodiverse representation in theatre.

An Unexpected Tale in Smoky Midtown is an unpretentious and self-deprecating riff on the noir genre. From the charismatically unreliable narrator to the Soviet plot, it's an inventive show that - albeit not very original as a concept and with plenty of flaws - has a lot of heart and loads of excellent ideas.

Not all of these come to fruition in 65 minutes. The cast (George Alexander, Emily Barnes, Sam Bell, Ashley Hodgson, Amanda Elizabeth Rischel, Daniel Short, Daniel Toney) plod through some rocky acting here and there, altogether unimpressive vocals, and forgettable songs.

It's all slightly too all over the place to work seamlessly, with many roles struggling to come into their own. It's difficult to say whether this is due to the time restraint or the writing itself, but it's a shame Rischel casts her line and retrieves it before the audience get to take the bait.

Yet, the musical can be brilliant in its humour. The characters shut up and retake the scene when the author is rewriting the narrative for his own benefit (a bit à la Josie Rourke's City of Angels, if you will); all props are labelled clearly and every location is titled by the piano player at the back (while this is certainly amusing, it also speaks for the production's ethos around accessibility); and Freckner's meta-theatrical interjections can be delightful.

The neurodiverse slant to the story comes into the light only at the very end, but it's a weak mention of honour of sorts and definitely not as strong as to sell an entire production under that flag. Still, it's great to see that there's a young company willing to put work into changing the game.

With some more R&D, the piece has the potential to be the lovechild of City of Angels and Mischief Theatre. But, as it is, it remains a tongue-in-cheek, cheesy comedy that lacks the grit to land.

An Unexpected Tale in Smoky Midtown runs at Canal Café Theatre until 10 August as part of Camden Fringe.

Regional Awards


From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

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