The Falcon's Malteser

Wed 5th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Archie Hill

at 09:57 on 24th Aug 2015

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Having loved Anthony Horowitz’s Diamond Brothers book series as a child, relishing the hilarious and surreal neo-noir adventures of the eponymous siblings, I was both excited and slightly apprehensive about seeing New Old Friends’ adaptation of The Falcon’s Malteser. Thankfully, the writers managed to capture the breathless (and mostly ridiculous) action of the book, along with the fast-paced and – most importantly – funny dialogue. Although it was a show aimed at children, I take no shame in the fact that I often found myself laughing out loud.

The character of Tim Simple – once the worst policeman in London, now Tim Diamond, the world’s most incompetent and deluded private eye – remains a brilliant creation, reaching ever greater heights of stupidity: “the last time I introduced myself I took two bullets in the chest. Luckily I was behind the chest at the time or I could’ve been hurt.” Actor Feargus Dunlop clearly enjoys pushing the role bit by bit to increasingly exaggerated extremes, with his pratfalls and one-liners taking the lion’s share of laughs from the audience. The wider cast demonstrates the extreme ingenuity of Lee Lyford’s direction, with two actors – Dan Winter and Heather Westwell – playing eighteen different characters, from a psychopathic German hitman to a mysterious Mexican dwarf.

The constant rapid costume changes are just part of the inventive energy that The Falcon’s Malteser radiates: the set changes, all the more brilliant for their simplicity, are as unfailingly funny as any other part of the play. Indeed, there is scarcely a dull moment throughout, with songs galore, a didgeridoo solo, a hallway door sequence that puts Scooby Doo to shame, and almost certainly the best on-stage car chase at Edinburgh this year.

Perhaps this slightly frenetic method of staging can get a bit tiresome at times and detract from the story – which feels distinctly incidental at times. In particular, the character of Nick Diamond (Tom Medcalf), teenage brother of Tim and crime-solving genius, is largely reduced to an exposition device.

However this hardly reduces the overall enjoyment of the play, and the show certainly appeals to younger audience members, who relished the successful combination of broad physical comedy and surprisingly intelligent – if gloriously silly – jokes and wordplay. The Falcon’s Malteser is well worth a visit for anyone with young children, or who merely wants something to appeal to their inner child.

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Fergus Morgan

at 20:01 on 24th Aug 2015

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Anthony Horowitz’ Diamond Brothers books, chronicling the escapes and escapades of Private Detective Tim and his teenage brother Nick, lit the imagination of a generation of young schoolboys. They are ingeniously conceived, well written, and fantastically witty.

New Old Friends have taken on a huge responsibility in bringing the first of the series, The Falcon’s Malteser (surely the greatest title of any book anywhere, ever), to the stage then. They have tickled the dormant imagination of any Fringe-goer under 25. They have ignited the hope of Horowitz fans everywhere – which is pretty much anyone born after 1990.

Happily, they have created a funny, well-choreographed hour of comedy, embellishing and adapting the source material appropriately, yet always remaining faithful to the tone and humour of Horowitz’s book.

Tom Medcalf plays Nick, the piece’s intrepid, clue-finding, rule-breaking 13 year-old hero. Feargus Dunlop plays Tim, his bumbling, stumbling detective elder brother, who, in Horowitz’s own words, “couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle.” Together, with Nick doing most of the work, they pursue a stash of priceless diamonds that have been hidden somewhere in London by deceased criminal mastermind The Falcon, with a perplexing box of Maltesers as their only clue.

Dan Weather and Heather Westwell share a host of supporting characters between them – a diminutive Mexican, a swaggering British crime lord, a faded Russian beauty, and more – as the action races around London, from the Diamond brother’s dingy flat, to a dusky jazz club, to a deathly dangerous cemetery.

This is good, family theatre all round. Medcalf is suitably earnest in a chirpy, chirrupy performance. Dunlop gets a lot of laughs with his cluelessness and clumsiness, a hopeless Captain Haddock to Medcalf’s intrepid Tintin.

It is Weather and Westwell who truly impress, however. Their versatility, both physical and vocal, is given room to flaunt itself and all of their characters, from shrieking German hitmen to simpering octogenarian cleaners, are entirely and commendably distinguishable, not to mention comic.

Throughout, the cast’s synchronicity is sure-footed and secure. Comedy chase routines, swift scene changes that make use of a neatly designed set, and, of course, the inevitable slapstick falls – all are well-executed, to the great amusement of younger audience members.

The Falcon’s Malteser, just like the book it is based on, is simply great fun. It’s clever, witty, well-paced, well-acted and, most importantly, true to its source material. Best of all, for those who counted the Diamond brothers amongst their friends in their heady primary school days, there is a faint whiff of arresting nostalgia to the piece. Apparently, even Horowitz himself is a fan – and who can argue with him?

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