Like many people, I enjoy mysteries purely because I try to guess the culprit – and if the story is predictable, I find myself losing interest. So I was pleasantly surprised by The Toyland Murders, which left me second-guessing until the end. Kite Tail Theatre Company brings a creative and entertaining show to Bedlam Theatre, as mysteries unfold in Toyland… and there’s only one detective who can take on the challenge of solving them.
Detective Carmen McGraw and Inspector Harvey B Feltz are the delightful duo fighting crime as a series of murders disrupt their world. Their good cop/bad cop routine makes for witty humour and a well-paced storyline, as along with a colourful cast of puppets, the two visit a series of suspects and expose the darkest of Toyland’s criminals.
“Let’s make like a banana, and split” is just one of the lines that kept a smile on my face, and their childlike gimmicks had me – and the other audience members – chuckling throughout. Although nothing was particularly hilarious, the show brought out a childish side in me and I enjoyed the comedy antics. I also felt myself getting attached to the characters and their diverse personalities, with the righteous and outgoing Detective McGraw opposing to the more reserved Inspector Feltz. As they edged closer to uncovering the full story, my interest held up throughout.
With this in mind, the only thing I would criticise is the simplicity of the presentation. The cast are able to work so creatively with what they have that I found myself wanting more; the colourful lighting masked the fact that the stage picture was composed of merely a toy box and two stage flats. And as lovable as they were, the puppets didn’t hold much expression, leaving the actors to take up most of the persona – because of which, I found myself paying more attention to the actors than the puppets themselves.
The cast did a wonderful job in creating those characters though, with their “detective” voices and exaggerated sentences adding to the charming innocence and whimsical style. This is a clever production for children and adults alike, and the intriguing storyline makes The Toyland Murders a fast-paced and playful show. I wanted more in terms of visual aesthetic, but that doesn’t take away from the pleasantly eccentric characterisation maintained throughout the play.