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  • Writer's pictureKevin White

NODA review for the Maltese Falcon

Society: University of Kent Players

Show: The Maltese Falcon

Venue: Elliot Cloisters, University of Kent, Canterbury

Date: 04/05/2019

Director: Vicky Gatward-Warner

Assistant Director: Kat Flaxman

The Maltese Falcon is a 1930 detective novel by American writer Dashiell Hammett, originally serialized in the magazine Black Mask and later in 1941 it was turned into the classic film starring Humphrey Bogart.

The University of Kent Players took the inventive and exciting decision to present the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of this play outside in the cloisters of Elliot College on the University Campus which has a natural amphitheatre built within its grounds. Unfortunately for them mother nature had other ideas and the inclement weather meant that the quick thinking group managed to move the entire production indoors into a space never used by them previously and set up for an audience all within an hour. All credit to the teamwork it evidently took to do this.

Once set up, sat on the floor, in the indoor space with our picnics in front of us we were treated to an incredibly entertaining and slickly directed production by Vicky Gatward-Warner. She knew exactly how to manoeuvre her performers around the space and got the best out of all of them. Costumes by Linda McCann were of the period and both the recorded and live sound effects were appropriate for the atmosphere.

Right from the start Robin Rose Breetveld showed an enigmatic presence as the productions protagonist Sam Spade. She gave the character a slick and smooth quality that was necessary for the portrayal. An archetypical film noir performance.

The role of the deceitful femme fatale of the piece Brigid Shaughnessy was played by newcomer to the group Katie Blythe. She flitted between a strong vampish quality and a soft vulnerable side and it was lovely to watch her switch between the two.

Marie-Jeanne Royer played Detective Tom Polhaus, Wilmer Cook and Dot Browning with as much comic value as possible. She grew into the characters as the performance went on and her dry delivery really brought the best out of the script.

Jess Hudson, as the exceptionally concerned Effie Perine and the highly amusing Mrs Browning, played her roles with a great sense of variety and stagecraft. She was an accomplished performer that oozed confidence throughout. The trust and compassion between Effie and Sam Spade was evident.

The character of Joel Cairo was played well by Zarina Hawkins. In Hammett's novel, the character is clearly homosexual but due to the cross gender casting (which I’m a huge fan of) this could not be explored within this particular production. Zarina also played the roles of Sam’s business partner Miles Archer and the ever so loyal Captain Jacoby with a solid sense of control and command.

James Manning gave a first class performance as the arch villain Kaspar Gutman, the arrogant and incompetent Lieutenant Dundy and Chewy. His versatility and interpretation of each role was outstanding particularly expressing the difference in all three characters. His body language was well observed and appropriate for each character.

Kat Flaxman took on the role of the announcer as well as supporting Sophie Taylor on sound effects. Both ladies didn’t miss a cue on what is a particularly demanding job.

A suggestion of something to work on in the future would be creating radio studio characters. It would just be an extra dimension to see the actors playing characters at the back that are totally different to their radio personas as an extra dimension to the piece.

This production was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I loved the idea of it and it didn’t disappoint. Many congratulations on a smooth run show. I look forward to your next offering.

Review by: Cheryl Mumford District 6 Representative

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