The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Seymour Centre (NSW)
Directed by Alexander Andrews, Musical Direction by Andy Freeborn
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
The question of who killed Edwin Drood has haunted literary enthusiasts for decades since Charles Dickens shuffled off this mortal coil and left his novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished. Luckily, the musical stage version of this novel helps to bring some resolve that very mystery. But be warned, this is not the performers job to answer, it’s yours!
As a yoga class is seemingly taking place, the band, led in by director Alexander Andrews, are baffled to see their “rehearsal room” has not been emptied for their allotted time. This beginning was a clever way of bringing the audience into the theatrical world of the production as we embark on a behind the scenes performance of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The setting of this production was further reinforced through the all-blacks worn by the cast.
The main difference of this production compared to others is that YOU choose who the murderer is. Due to Dickens never finishing his story, the cast leave you breadcrumbs throughout, and at times, literal in your face clues to remember, such as when casts break the (already brittle) fourth wall to say, “remember that sentence!”.
There was much fun to be had here as we are introduced to the too obvious villain John Jasper (Zachary Aleksander) monologuing about his desire to be rid of his nephew, the soon to be dead Edwin Drood (Ren McMeiken). With Jasper hunting after the love of Drood’s fiancé Rosa Bud (Phoebe Clark), and the addition of the lustful eye of Helena Landless (Kimmie Jonceski sporting a mischievously spot on heiress accent), the stage is set for a classic story of red herrings and clues.
The performers have an absolute blast with this production. Each one is given their own unique traits to spotlight throughout the show, ranging from whacky voices to absurd caricatures. The standouts personally, were Madeleine Wighton’s impressively powerful singing voice as Bazzard, Addy Robertson’s growling and spotlight seeking Durdles, and Simon Ward’s Reverend Crisparkle who would have slipped easily into an episode of Fawlty Towers. The entire cast ensemble powered their way with a smile through the elements of the show that lacked.
For what the show was, it was too long and needed some comedically large scissors to snip away at the parts that could have sped us towards the whodunnit elements.
There were clear moments of farce that could be likened to other companies like Mischief Theatre, who have made a name for themselves in the “production gone wrong” style of humour. However, the production at times did not know if it was a farcical production of a murder mystery, or a slapstick behind the scenes rehearsal with local performers. It would have benefitted the show to choose one clear direction.
There were nevertheless outstanding moments in this show. It’s always clever when productions include the band as part of the show, and Andy Freeborn’s band were placed in the clear spotlight on more than one occasion. A particularly spectacular moment came when Aleksander’s Jasper took over Freeborn’s piano for a song, for the pair to then transition hands back again without breaking the flow.
For those who love the murder mystery genre and are gearing up to see Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap in Sydney later this year, make sure you go to see The Mystery of Edwin Drood first. Mostly because Christie’s isn’t a musical, but also to be thoroughly entertained by the comic performances of 14 committed and voraciously talented artists.
So, who will you choose to be the murderer?
Photos: Clare Hawley
The Mystery of Edwin Drood plays at the Seymour Centre until the 16th July. Tickets can be booked here.
Writer Rupert Holmes Director Alexander Andrews Music Director Andy Freeborn Producer Rose McClelland Lighting Designer James Wallis Set Designer Alexander Andrews Stage Manager Jeremy Kindl Lighting Operators Gabrielle Rawlings, Alex Smiles Sound Engineer Andy Wang Band Andy Freeborn, Austin Hall, Renae Goodman
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (Broadway Revival Version) BOOK, MUSIC and LYRICS BY RUPERT HOLMES
Original Broadway production produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival, Joseph Papp, Producer
BY ARRANGEMENT WITH ORiGiN™ Theatrical origintheatrical.com.au