It was with great sadness that I read that Excess All Areas, originators of the deliciously camp panto romp Pilates of the Caribbean, was finishing its time on the Battersea Barge. For me, sitting down and listening to some bawdy jokes told by gleefully overacting cabaret performers … while on a boat … is really just a very fine way to spend an evening. And Paul W Martin recruits performers with excellent singing voices and powerful improv skills … I had to ask, how would they be in a murder mystery? And (very important) … how much wine was appropriate to drink before the show started? I felt confident a full bottle was called for when our initial drinks order was placed and in this I was not wrong.
Dial M … for Death is set in an old house in the middle of … well, rural England, where the two nieces of an elderly aunt are squabbling over their lifestyle choices. One has stayed and been a caretaker for the old lady, while the other has gone to London and found herself a husband … or, at least, a fiance. Auntie is hosting an engagement party for her (with lots of spam-based dishes from the cook), but, to nobody’s great surprise, about two minutes after she has the first bite of the meal, Auntie keels over.
This provides several opportunities: first, for everyone (including the cook) to become suspected of murder; second, for the long-frozen romance between the fiance and the elder sister (Dotty) to flame back on; and, finally, for the actor playing Auntie to come back again and again and die many other gruesome deaths. We get several well-sung numbers, lots of bad innuendo, and flying spam; later, we are treated to an utterly surreal moment when the very fuzzy haired gardener with a shifting accent crawls down the long table in the dining room (as in where WE are seating), rolling around, stealing drinks, and generally hamming it up. It might have needed about 15 minutes of trimming but, as before, people were there to laugh, the cast was improvising their asses off (good as the script was acknowledged to be weak), and everyone on both sides of the fourth wall was having a great time. On a sunny summer night with the clouds hanging in the sky like roses on an arbour, you could ask for no more enjoyable evening of cabaret wickedness than this.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014. It closed on June 27th.)