Dénouement!: Cluedo on the Stage

La Mama joins the ranks of the Melbourne Comedy Festival and produces a deliciously satisfying who-dunnit with all the hallmarks of a great production.

The stately faux-English lounge room sets the stage as a lone man in a finely pressed suit speaks into a Dictaphone. Dénouement! begins with the investigation of a brutal murder and the audience are immediately hooked. Which of these fine characters has committed the deed; the husband, the wife, the mother? Or could it be the private eye, and is anyone really who they say they are? It draws on the tropes of the Agatha Christie Murder Mysteries or Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes with much finger pointing, class division and an active reduction of any possible ‘scandal’.

The cast are clearly loving their respective roles and provided a tight performance that still felt natural and easy. Particular mention goes to Kathryn Tohill who plays Vera, the wife, bored of her bumbling husband John, she seems to have with wandering eyes for a particular butler. She brings sass and a delivers humorous lines with an almost gratingly dry edge. She holds herself with incredible poise and really carries the plot development.  Her husband John, superbly played by Chris Saxton, is the heir of money and status but seemingly not the heir of any brains. His misdirected self-confidence and thick as a brick rhetoric is sure to get a chuckle out of any audience.

The play is self-reflective, and I assume that the writers and producers, James Hazelden & Nicholas Rasche were aware of how classic this narrative was. With all the embellishments of a missing will, a suspicious murder and a confident private investigator, it begins to feel like a game of Cluedo in the English Countryside. However this well-worn plot is made interesting by the use of Meta jokes and cheeky references to the supreme obviousness of it all. This in itself makes the play all the more satiating.

Satisfyingly the name of the play itself explains how the plot unfolds. For the non-Francophones out there, Dénouement! translates to the moment of a play where all the loose ends are tied up and the narrative reaches climax. So hold out for the end when all is revealed and the audience smiles collectively out of sheer gratification.

Honestly, which its smooth plot trajectory, engaging characters and dashes of black comedy and grandiloquence worthy of the context, it is hard not to find this play enjoyable. Against the overwhelming backdrop of skit based comedy that is the Melbourne Comedy Festival, this is a steady, plot centric play with enough dry humour and satisfying twists to guarantee you a good chuckle.

Julia Frecker

La Mama’s production of Dénouement! ran at La Mama Courthouse from 3 — 7 April 2019.

Photography by Chris Tomkins

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