This isn’t a sponsored post.
BrumHour saw The Cat and the Canary at the invitation of The Alexandra.
By Eleanor Lawson twitter.com/elle_lawson
Review: The Cat and the Canary at The Alexandra
Directed by Roy Marsden, Written by John Willard
Starring Britt Ekland with Eric Carte, Antony Costa, Ben Nealon, Tracy Shaw, Marti Webb and Gary Webster.
A good old crime thriller is as much a staple of British culture as fish and chips and a pathological love of queuing. At Christmas, we gather all of our loved ones in front of the box to watch someone get – quite often brutally – murdered as a part of the festivities. So it’s no surprise that The Cat and the Canary is taking over some of the biggest theatres in the country to invite audiences to solve the whodunnit.
We start the show in the former manor of Mr West, as his descendants gather 20 years after his death to discover who will inherit his fortunes. When it stipulates that the chosen heir will be disinherited if they are found to be of unsound mind, horror starts to descend on the house. Is it too much of a coincidence for someone to escape from the local asylum on the same night? And how can someone get in if the guests have locked all the doors?
The comedy-thriller has continued to thrive over the ages – beginning as a stage play by John Willard in 1922, before being adapted into four feature films: in 1927, 1930, 1939, and 1979. So what is it about this story that continues to enthral audiences?
Tracy Shaw is the stand-out performance as Annabelle West, suddenly plunged into a world of terror and confusion as things go bump in the night and hands steal things through walls. Annabelle is also the perfect example of a common thriller trope that is unnervingly prescient today: gaslighting. Manipulating women into disbelieving their own reality is a recurring plot point in crime stories, notably the 1944 film Gaslight, but we still see it everywhere around us, from toxic relationships to news reports and social media comments … It’s viscerally upsetting to see Annabelle start to believe that she might be psychologically disturbed.
The show knows the alchemy of a successful crime story, and exactly which buttons to press to get the audience squealing and giggling. There’s the ominous thunderstorm locking everyone indoors, the threat of a deranged murderer on the loose, secret passageways and suspect motives – everyone’s favourite horror tropes. The production doesn’t break the wheel, but then again, it doesn’t need to. People love the familiarity of a crime story, and want to be put through the paces they’re familiar with. This is good old-fashioned family entertainment, for wannabe sleuths and horror fanatics alike.
The Cat and the Canary is at The Alexandra until 9th October 2021. The England 2021 Tour currently continues until 27th November 2021. Find out more here: kenwright.com/portfolio/the-cat-and-the-canary/