Daylight Robbery, a new production premiering as part of the 24:7 Theatre Festival has certainly seemed to polarise opinion. Guest blogger Mia Darlone (miadarlone.wordpress.com) certainly enjoyed it whilst us here at The Fiction Stroker were not as enthusiastic Read on for two very different receptions to the same production.
Mia Darlone’s review:
Ok, so me reviewing a production by an ex-BBC executive producer equates to Margarita Pracatan voicing her views on a Shirley Bassey concert, but what the heck…
Having read the reviews, I spent my journey on route to see Micheal Jacob’s Daylight Robbery frantically thinking of polite ways to say I thought it was crap. I left feeling inspired and entertained (and not just because I got heckled by a man on some scaffolding when I was crossing the inner ring road).
The story of a detective who is solving parallel robberies and suspected murder was the perfect example of scenes with purpose and a swiftly moving plot, delivered via a non-expositional script. It served equally as an educational tool for a budding writer and an enjoyable watch. Whilst it wasn’t as funny as the woman in Tesco last week who didn’t realise the inclined travelator wasn’t magnetic and let go of a full trolley at the beginning of her descent, it did make me laugh several times – Joshua Wilkinson’s Mr Peppiatt in particular (a wasted character if never used again). And of course the knob gag. The cast should be credited for the humour as much as the script, and penis joke aside, the source of clean material for comedy was admirable and up there with Sarah Millican’s tea towel references. It’s a trait I’m clawing to obtain, but unfortunately always manage to recurrently slip a willy in somewhere.
The seven actors playing 20-something roles in 1800 costumes (the era that is – there weren’t that many costumes) was slicker than Gok Wan’s quiff and all were believable (with the pedantic exception of Christopher Faith’s Irish accent slipping into Scouse at one point, having nailed the rest of the British Isles). Francesca Waite’s appearance as three different characters in straight succession with only the visual aid of a hair bobble was remarkable.
Maybe the reviews were a reflection on an unrealistic expectation – it was far from the suspense of Broadchurch but that’s not what it intended to be. It was as if it was the opposite effect of the emperor’s new clothes but I’m not sure why. It’s not like it was comparable to Kerry Katona’s mum doing Shakespeare and storming it – leaving critics too ashamed to say they thought it was good. Perhaps the early reviews were accurate accounts – in which case, credit to all involved for turning the whole thing around by the last day.
The only bit I didn’t like was the interaction with the audience at the start – I’m prone to nativity at the best of times and when I was approached in my seat by a cast member asking me for a cigarette I was stupidly oblivious to the fact it was part of the show and shot him a ‘what on earth are you doing?!’ look, mortified that a professional was asking me for a fag whilst he should have been concentrating on his pending performance.
Oh and I’d have liked the potted meat sandwiches to be real.
The pleasant production was tied up nicely with an apparent homage to Nicky Campbell – a man who will forever have a piece in my heart after presenting Central Weekend Live.
I cared about the people, I cared who the culprits were and I cared that, after all the inevitable hard work and decent performances (at least by the last showing), there wasn’t a decent review to be shown for it.
The Fiction Stroker’s review:
One of 24:7’s main objectives is to spotlight new talent. Writer Micheal Jacob might not be new to the arts scene, having been Executive Producer on many successful comedies including Birds of a Feather and Two Pints of Lager, but he is new to writing for the stage. Unfortunately, this becomes very clear given the excessive amount of scene changes. Were this radio, this would not be such a big problem. But on stage, Marcus McMillan (as Caminada) is left to carry the weight of a very demanding script.
This pacy speed combined with the fact that nearly all the actors are doubling up on roles makes for a very confusing play with many of the actors and the script equally guilty as charged when it comes to characters that are difficult to tell apart. With the plot lurching from scene to scene changing setting with little guidance as to where we are combined with the fact some actors are playing up to three characters – you can see the problem you might have following the story.
There’s a great effort to create the Victorian world through the costumes and other little flourishes within the set design. However, the variable accents pull you out of this world. It is a distinctly local piece, but the history and flavour are spoon-fed to you rather than discovered. I so desperately wanted to come away having experienced a slice of Mancunian history, but sadly Daylight Robbery isn’t the play for that.
As written, ‘celebrity’ detective, Insp. Caminada isn’t particularly engaging or suave. Marcus McMillan tries his best despite the exhausting dance he has appearing in nearly every scene of the play. We’re not offered a chance to get to know the quirks of this particular detective, and it quickly becomes inevitable that someone is going to betray his trust and it all becomes less of a detective story and more Jackanory as the mystery is spelt out.
Of the other cast, no-one really manages to succeed in making their character distinguishable from the next one they play. Only Kerry Bennett manages to add some flavour to her portrayal with the traits and tics she give to her barmaid character but even then, this is only a brief flash of inspiration.
It is a shame as the concept is one of the more unique and interesting to have come out of 24:7, but the reality is far removed from what it ought to have been.
The Fiction Stroker gives Daylight Robbery two strokes out of five: