Shot in the Dark

Fri 17th – Sun 26th August 2018

reviews

Lauren James

at 08:29 on 20th Aug 2018

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Aside from infrequent pockets of brilliant wit, ‘Shot in the Dark’ lacks the originality required to render the performance memorable.

The overriding flaw is the play’s failure to take the genre of ‘Carry on Cold War’ in a novel direction. Set against the backdrop of characteristically fraught 1950s Anglo-Russian politics, the plot centres on the failed assassination of a notorious Russian spy. However, the play’s opening scene fails to reassure audiences that the narrative is sufficiently complex to move beyond dated stereotypes, highlighted in the actors’ crude Russian accents which compromise the script’s subtlety.

Equally, the brashness with which certain characters were played meant that the humour was lost. For the most part, the actors’ characterisation is insufficiently adventurous to afford ‘Shot in the Dark’ the nuances it deserves. Nevertheless, Adam Reeves’ refreshing interpretation of the highly-strung Kenneth injects much needed dynamism into the play. Sadly, the remaining cast members confine themselves to embodying the stock characters they represent without exploring the deeper themes which the play explores. Hints at misogyny, corruption and homophobia are littered throughout the script and yet are lost in the brazenness of their respective portrayals.

Despite this, the production of ‘Shot in the Dark’ is generally slick. Flashbacks are used to effect, in addition to the live saxophonist, aiding with scene changes. Further, on occasion, the chosen choreography perfectly complements the script. Kenneth’s attempted murder of the Russian spy is both clever and amusing. This said, at other moments, it was clunky and awkward. The waltz scene, for example, was unnecessarily long, contributing to the play’s loss of momentum and disruption of pace.

Whilst ‘Shot in the Dark’ had the potential to subvert preconceptions about Cold War drama, forced humour and predictable characterisation prevent the play from grappling with its darker undertones.

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Alina Young

at 16:24 on 20th Aug 2018

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Following the misdemeanours of incompetent MI4 assassins trying to kill a Soviet secret agent, 'Shot in the Dark' spins a Cold War spy story into an English farce. This comes with a selection of expected stock characters: a womaniser, an awkward dork, and many one-dimensional women. The humour is light-hearted and, aside from a few clever jokes, largely predictable.

It is to their credit that the entire cast commits to their roles, even if the characters are not especially surprising or multifaceted. From the blind, dowdy old secretary (Jamie Williams) to the hysterical and jealous fiancée (Juliette Hampton), much of the comedic value of the show comes from the actors’ inflated performances.

Some of the best moments come from the double act of Communists, played by Hassan Hussain and Matt Gurtler. They make full use of the stern and macho tropes the audience are familiar with - downing bottles of vodka and ordering executions of family members with gusto - but give an extra edge to the KGB through entertaining homoerotic tendencies.

The scenes are, however, inconsistent. As expected with amateur writing, while some jokes are received with rounds of laughter, others simply don't land. The antics of MI4 are occasionally tedious, and the direction in these moments doesn’t compensate for the script with a much-needed faster pace. While the production can feel a little rough, with unclear voice-overs or slightly odd costume choices, a great addition is a live saxophone accompaniment. It lifts the mood and makes for more interesting transitions between scenes.

Although this comedy dips in the middle, there are still plenty of laughs to be had. The farce, though not offering anything especially new, is cheerful; and when at its best, the cast works very well as a comedic ensemble.

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