THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Riverside Studios, London W6
Opened 25 June, 2004

Once in a great while a show comes along to gladden the heart of every critic. But not because itís good.  No, rather because it plainly stinks like a rotting weasel, so that even the most tender-hearted reviewer (like me) realises that no cruelty can be too great. People must be warned off!  Yup, the stage adaptation of Bryan Singerís acclaimed 1995 movie is very, very bad indeed. Dear God, itís bad.

The production values of this cheapo tour would shame a pub theatre: slide projections on to a makeshift screen, rickety wall flats that the actors move awkwardly... it simply looks tatty.  All the budget seems to have been spent on blank ammo for the guns. But nobody realised that loud bangs and strobe lighting can grow extremely tedious.  The main lighting Ė a group of floor spots Ė casts more shadows than light.

We name the guilty man! Ricardo Pinto has been directing shows for his own company since 1987. I last saw him in 1991. Time hasnít increased his skills.  He doesnít even have a basic awareness of his own limitations. Not least of which, even after spending 30 years in Britain, is a strong Portuguese accent.  Naturally, then, he cast himself in the wordy role of Verbal Kint, played by Kevin Spacey in the film. Big mistake.

Pinto could have given himself the Benicio del Toro role. But no, that goes to an actor whoís as convincing a Chicano as Wayne Rooney. The cast in general are as plausibly hard-boiled and American as the S Club Juniors.  As adaptor/director, he has no sense of dynamics: itís sluggish and overdone.  And by the way, I donít like football, so this isnít topical anti-Portuguese-ism. No, itís all personal to Pinto.

The Riversideís big Studio 2 seats over 400 people. On Friday, barely an eighth of the seats were filled. Miraculously, almost all returned after the interval.  But the staging was so clumsy that for several minutes we didnít realise when the interval started, and in the second half the derisive giggles began: quiet, but audible, and thoroughly deserved.  Apparently, touring dates are planned for later this year. Emigrate now!

Written for Teletext.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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