The Landor Theatre in Clapham continues to prove itself one of the most interesting and vibrant of London’s fringe venues with this deliciously dark comedy thriller.
Originally a novel by William Goldman and famously made into a film starring Rod Steiger, Lee Remick and George Segal, it was turned into a stage musical by Douglas J Cohen in 1987.
It’s the story of Christopher Gill, a failed New York actor with a fixation on his late actress mother who, unable to achieve her level of fame, chooses infamy instead by becoming a serial killer — using a variety of disguises to snare his female victims. On his tail is detective Morris Brummell, who is also living in the shadow of a domineering matriarch and who also craves some level of recognition.
With Gill’s work method becoming more and more audacious and his thirst for publicity in the fabled New York Times more insatiable, he begins to taunt Brummell with a series of phone calls as the pair head for a collision course.
It’s a nicely constructed plot enhanced well by Cohen’s score, and while there might not be a knock your socks off 11 o’clock number here, the songs are full of witty and often macabre lyrics.
The four-strong cast can’t be faulted. Graham Mackay-Bruce elicits sympathy as the beleaguered detective and Kelly Burke as his love interest conveys a level of sophistication that suggests Brummell might be slightly out of his depth both personally and professionally. But Kelly is far from being part of a bolted on romantic subplot; she more than comes into her own as Gill’s killing spree threatens to impact on Brummell’s private life.
Performances of the night though were Simon Loughton as the crazed killer — one moment chilling, then by turns as pathetic as he is ruthless — and Judith Paris, who shows terrific versatility and some fine comic turns in playing both mothers and several of Gill’s victims.
I enjoyed No Way To Treat a Lady. It might not be a classic in terms of hummable tunes, but it’s an entertaining story well told that builds to a thrilling climax.
Reviewed by Tony Peters
Book, Music and lyrics by Douglas J Cohen
Based on the novel by William Goldman
Directed by Robert McWhir
Musical Director Nicholas Chave
Mothers and other characters
Christopher (Kit) Gill