The Lowry, Salford Quays
Dick Tracy was, of course, the yellow-raincoat wearing star of the classic 1930s cartoon strip by Chester Gould. Over the years, the story has been adapted into many forms -it’s been a popular, long-running radio serial, it’s been filmed (most famously by Warren Beatty and Madonna) and now the physical comedy team, Le Navet Bete offer us their take on the story, a whip-smart, endearingly funny slice of full-on slapstick that soon has the audience at the Lowry laughing at every turn. This is irresistibly silly stuff with enough jokes and pratfalls to keep everyone royally entertained.
It’s hard to believe that there are only four actors in the cast, such is the dizzying range of characters they portray, using costume, songs, masks and a whole variety of accents. At the story’s start, Alphonse ‘Big Boy’ Caprice has been slammed in the cooler after a failed attempt to kidnap Tracy’s girlfriend Tess Trueheart. When he is finally released, however, he announces that he is going ‘legit’ along with his henchmen, Flattop and Cueball. Pretty soon he has them selling lemonade and kittens. But of course, it’s all part of a fiendishly cunning plan. Caprice enlists his girlfriend, Careless Whisper (yes, really!) to frame Tracy for setting fire to an orphanage, leaving the bad guys free to weave their wicked plans for the city of Detroit.
There’s so much here to enjoy. The script, written collaboratively by the cast, contains enough zippy one liners and full-on groan-makers to please the most exacting of audiences – and the ingenious use of props never fails to delight. I particularly enjoyed the motor cycle which appeared to be made from a wheel, a pair of handlebars and a hair dryer on full blast! Annoyingly, we chanced upon Le Navet Bete towards the end of a long run of Dick Tracy – there’s just one last performance at Luton Library Theatre on the 26th March (if you’re in the area, don’t dare miss it!) and they will present a new show, their own take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth on the 7th, 8th and 9th of April. If it’s anything like as good as DT, it will be well worth seeking out..
We arrived at the theatre tonight feeling pretty sorry for ourselves and left with great big smiles on our faces. You really can’t ask for more than that.