by Douglas Post.
St James Theatre (Studio) 12 Palace Street SW1E 5JA To 25 January 2014.
7.45pm 8-11, 14-16, 21-25 Jan Mat 11, 12, 19, 25 Jan 3pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 January.
A gem of a thriller in a perfect setting.
Down at cellar level in the St James lies the studio, its bar part of the space, a perfect setting for Douglas Post’s story of ex-cop turned photographer Derek Eveleigh whose practice of shooting attractive women (with camera, not gun) walking London’s parks brings him a mysterious commission to follow one particular female.
It’s 1957, a time Post soaks through his story. The object of his lens is Black, a clubland magician’s assistant. There’s music and magic, performed live by Simon Slater as he takes us through Eveleigh’s story from a high point over Archway, where he’s considering a suicide jump, back in time to lower levels, with the exoticism of the non-white woman, and uncertainty following the decontrolling of rents in the Conservative Rent Act of the year, making Eveleigh’s shabby flat expensive.
There’s the excitement of Sputnik, the first satellite mankind’s propelled into orbit, the first tower-block housing, the greyness of the post-war South Bank, the antiquated-looking aircraft – the last two seen among the images backing Eveleigh’s story, interspersed with the woman who it seems is dead: beautiful, wary, her eyes ever looking aside.
On a raised stage no bigger than a cabaret space, Slater builds a picture of an English Philip Marlowe, without the hard-core prose, without the moral insistence, but resolute to make his pictures part of the truth rather an aid to lies. His life, cramped as his flat, propels him to the edge of the area and beyond as events push him around, and the truth lies just beyond reach while the murders mount.
There’s a solution, which requires looking at the art of the magician and reassessing assumptions built-up along the way. Patrick Sandford’s detailed, smooth-running production structures the tone so plot, character and the mental landscape of the time stay in harmony with each other.
Beside the sax-playing (he also created the show’s original music, perfectly in period) and self-mutilating magic, Slater avoids a mere Anglicised Marlowe pastiche, guiding the audience through the plot’s complexity and opening-up Eveleigh’s puzzlement, surprise and realisation as he works his way through others’ mean motives.
Derek Eveleigh: Simon Slater.
Director: Patrick Sandford.
Designer: Agnes Dewhurst.
Lighting: David W Kidd.
Sound: Rob Jones.
Music: Simon Slater.
Associate lighting: Tom Kitney.