Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh
August, 2001

** Disappointing comedy from a writer who's better than this

Paul Sellar's asylum comedy tries too hard to be different from his more usual fare, and the production heavily overplays the wackiness.

Sellar's The Bedsit, seen on the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago after successful runs in London fringe venues, was a taut, sardonically humorous and thoughtful thriller. This is a world away from that territory, as a trio of Scotland yard detectives arrive in an isolated country-house asylum in 1955 to track down a dangerous madman on the loose in the grounds, only to find that the nutter may in fact be posing as the director of the institution.

Sellar is so keen to try his hand at comic word-play and snappy, Marx-brothers-apiralling dialogue that he overwrites things, and one can feel the effort pouring off the stage. Ezra Hjalmarsson's production makes clever and imaginative use of flats to "wipe" the stage between scenes, but also concentrates on the zany at the expense of the vein of "who is the real madman?" shadow running through the play. Sylvester McCoy as Doctor Mallinson goes all-out for this kind of comedy, and the rest of the cast lack the weight to rein him in even if they were inclined to. The production ends up as a disappointing muddle which, contrary to the title, never quite moves fast enough.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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