Clever whodunnit keeps everyone on edge while plot thickens

By Janet McAllister

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Jodie Hillock is quite the office frenemy in Girl in Tan Boots. Photo / Cherie Moore
Jodie Hillock is quite the office frenemy in Girl in Tan Boots. Photo / Cherie Moore

This intriguing whodunnit is entertaining and excellently produced. Its pleasing twists and turns balance humour and seriousness with just the right light touch.

We follow supposedly unflappable Detective Carapetis (Catherine Wilkin) to Kingsland, Britomart and cyberspace as she investigates the disappearance of a 32-year-old woman.

Australian playwright Tahli Corin's script is quotable and wryly smart, containing a satisfying plot, a few observations about the disconnections of modern life - and even a spot-on gender analysis of a magic act. The one-liners are fun: a mullet haircut is reluctantly deemed "not a punishable offence"; lonely hearts ads are described as "love letters ... with a word limit".

It's true that stock characters such as a possessive mother and weight-obsessed office busybodies abound, and sometimes one has to suspend disbelief about the detective's methods, motives and manner. (Would she really be shocked by people advertising for casual hook-ups?) But the show's quick tempo skips over occasional thinness so it's quickly forgotten.

Happily, and reasonably rarely for a genre piece, neither the script nor this particular production try to be television. Instead, without flashy fanfare, the show is satisfyingly theatrical. Daniel Williams' clever set holds several surprises but little furniture: the characters have nowhere to get comfortable, keeping things enjoyably on edge. A door opens on a wardrobe; it opens again on a hallway - there's faint menace in not knowing what's around the corner. Amber Molloy's lighting subtly changes the colours of each setting: a pink door for the parents' house; green walls for the office.

Janice Finn does a great job of directing an experienced ensemble of six who are full of chutzpah and a pleasure to watch.

Jodie Hillock is a very believable office frenemy, Anoushka Klaus is the right level of fretful, while J.J. Fong is broad light relief and Toni Potter vamps it up appropriately.

Nothing - not even Catherine Downes' heartbroken mother - is overdone.

Wilkin, who is onstage for the whole hour, has great stamina and anchors the show nicely. Good value for $23-$25.

What: Girl in Tan Boots
Where: The Basement, to March 22

- NZ Herald

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