THE MAN WHO WOULDN’T BE MURDERED at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre
“there are definitely some musical talents among the cast, and they particularly shine as a chorus”
It’s always a bold choice to put on a new musical in a 60-capacity with only a keyboard for accompaniment. But that doesn’t stop the cast of The Man Who Wouldn’t Be Murdered from singing their hearts out.
I had never heard the tale of Michael Malloy before this evening, but writer and composer Lilly Blundell has done well to come upon it because it’s absolutely ripe for a musical farce.
In 1933 America, times are tough, and Michael Malloy (Jude Ashcroft) is drinking Marino’s bar dry when he’s supposed to be the one serving the drinks. So as to save his business, Tony Marino (Jamie Ellis) decides, along with a couple of greedy accomplices, to murder Malloy and collect his life insurance. But, as the name would suggest, despite their best efforts, he will not be killed.
Death (Marie-Ange Camara), tired of the same old stories, finds herself obsessed with Malloy’s murderers and acts as partial narrator and observer. Wanting to see how far they’ll go, she withholds her ultimate power: Therein lies Blundell’s explanation for Malloy’s seeming immortality.
Camara is certainly the star of the show, moving sphynx-like around the would-be murderers as she playfully interferes. She’s a childish psychopath, stomping her feet and yelling “boring!” at the prospect of the human condition, whilst almost salivating at the growing wilfulness of Malloy’s ‘friends’.
There’s a bit of a problem with consistency: the faster paced songs are catchy and cheeky, whereas the slower numbers- a lover’s lament between main murderer Tony Marino and his wife (Annie Stedman), for example- are a bit of a drag, and feel especially long. They might be fine if it were a full-length musical, but given it’s only 55 minutes, I want as much jigging about as possible. Also, it’s a bit tired to have the only female character spend the whole time looking like a hurt bunny, trying to get her man to make sensible choices, and generally dampening the good fun.
With such a small space, it’s hard for the performers to gauge how big they should go, and the result is a bit pitchy. But there are definitely some musical talents among the cast, and they particularly shine as a chorus, splitting harmonies four or five ways, and moving in jaunty tandem. The design is thankfully simple, and further than the use of a drinks trolly, the stage is left mostly empty for the use of the generous cast of eight.
Please excuse me, but I’m about to majorly spoil the ending: Given that in real life Malloy was eventually murdered, it feels a bit bizarre that the story should end so abruptly with another failed attempt, instead focusing on the demise of Marino’s personal life. But it does feel like maybe this is just the first reveal of an idea still in incubation, an excerpt, even, from an as yet unfinished hit musical.
Reviewed on 16th August 2022
by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Jonathan Black
Previously reviewed at this venue: