REVIEW: THE BLACK & WHITE BALL, King s Head Theatre Islington

PUBLISHED: 10:16 23 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:59 07 September 2010

Two star rating A deserted ballroom is about to be bulldozed into oblivion. Leah enters, remembering the death of her stepfather, Jay St John, who was murdered there 20 years ago. Her mother, Suzanne,

THE BLACK & WHITE BALL

King's Head Theatre Islington

Two star rating

A deserted ballroom is about to be bulldozed into oblivion. Leah enters, remembering the death of her stepfather, Jay St John, who was murdered there 20 years ago. Her mother, Suzanne, was suspected of the crime but the case has never been solved.

She encounters Jay's ghost who launches into the story of his arrival in New York and bumping into Suzanne in a hotel bar.

He is an aspiring writer, she is a publisher - a match made in - well obviously not heaven in this case. After his first bestseller, he gets writer's block and, in search of inspiration, goes to town where he bumps into drag artist, Ron.

This piece is described as a whodunnit. But since there are only four main characters, the solution is pretty obvious from the start. However, the head count is bumped up by the splendid musical trio, plus the ever-present Charles Shirvell and the ever-smiling Liza Pulman who are always ready to warble snatches of magical Cole Porter songs that have little to do with the plot.

There is a singular lack of humour throughout. The only contribution to hilarity are Ron's performances in drag. His can-can is excellent, ruined only by the improbable appearance of the aforementioned Shirvell and Pulman.

Kaisa Hammarlund as Leah, the daughter, is the only sympathetic character apart from Lillie Bone, a precocious moppet who plays her as a child. Chris Ellis-Stanton appears initially as a ghost and retains that character throughout.

Katherine Kingsley matches her hard-as-nails 40s hairstyle with her performance as Suzanne.

Mark McGee is effective and creepy as Ron and stunning as his performing alter ego - Lottie.

This is the opening production of the new King's Head consortium so costumes, settings and general production values are unusually high for the venue - but worthy of much better material.

Until May 4.

Aline Waites

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