Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow at the New Diorama Theatre
Shortly after taking our seats, we are thrown into the hurtling world of 1940s LA. Complete with crooked cops and femme fatales, Rhum & Clay and Watermill Theatre have succeeded in creating a fast-paced, captivating pastiche of all things film noir.
The set is used imaginatively, and portable doorframes are used to create different scenes, forming trams, offices and windows. The cast create smoke with hand-held fog machines, which, along with the economical use of lighting, provide light relief from the serious action. The drive across LA is a particularly memorable and inventive piece of staging. Lighting effects perfectly render flashbacks and newspapers are inventively acted out whilst being read (including ads). Relaying information and story telling is a focus of this detective drama; characters combine narrating the story and re-enacting it at the same time.
The soundtrack adds a cinematic streak, transporting the audience back to the 1940s and heightening emotion. A highlight is the argument between Scarlett Addison and her husband, which is beautifully set against La Vie en Rose to create dramatic irony. The four-strong cast are on stage at all times and each plays several characters, except for Sam Shadow (a convincing Julian Spooner). They effortlessly shift between each, creating personae that are all equally rounded and believable. Jess Mabel Jones’s performance is outstanding, with her Scarlett Addison picking up the intonations characteristic of 1940s Hollywood actresses. Her portrayal of Miss Morden is also an absolute delight.
Inspired by Raymond Chandler and classic film noir – Chinatown and The Black Sheep spring to mind – the play also acts as an allegory for present day corruption. However, although director Beth Flintoff is keen to allude to the power strike deliberately carried out by energy giant Enron in 2000, this is too subtle and easy to miss in this exuberant production. The performance’s fast-paced beginning inevitably means that the final scenes do not have the same vigour, but this remains a slick, exciting and funny show; a creative homage to the dark comedies of the 1940s.
Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow is on at the New Diorama Theatre from 9th until 27th February 2016, for further information or to book visit here.