Review: Murder on the Menu
Detour Theatre

What do you do when you have sunk every last dollar – except for a few cents – into buying a derelict theatre with the aim of turning it into a café, only to discover it is haunted?

Answer: Get rid of the ghosts. How hard can it be?

That's the problem faced by Sophia (Alex Gilmour) when she finds herself landed with a bunch of seriously uninvited guests. Worse still, the spectral spirits are all pompous Shakespearean characters and they do not take kindly to having intruders crashing around in their comfortable home.

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Sophia does at least have her glamorous friend Skye (Sarah Coleman) to assist, though that in itself is a mixed blessing. Skye's hair-brained plans usually somehow seem to make matters even worse.

An other-worldly presence first manifests itself in the shape of the amorous Romeo (Chris Parnell), who the astonished Sophia takes to be some crazy guy in tights and orders out of the theatre.

Never mind Juliet (Georgia Thorne), who also shows up, this Romeo is ready to fall in love at first sight with any female he sees, and that includes Sophia.

As if one pair of spirits were not bad enough, the tragic Ophelia (Michelle Parnell) also swans on to the scene.

She is inconsolable after having her love rejected by the overbearing Hamlet (Matt Glover), who seems more interested in holding stimulating conversations with Yorick's skull than spending time with his true love.

Last but not least are the short-tempered Macbeth (Craig Wilson) and his wife Lady Macbeth (Susi Jansen), who spend the evening snarling at everyone else on stage in near-impenetrable Scottish accents, except when tempted with the prospect of a juicy haggis.

The two young women finally figure out that there is one way of freeing themselves of the ghosts: kill them off in the same way they each died in their respective plays. It's a bloody business but someone has to do it.

It is, of course, not that simple and the final minutes of the show have one more surprising twist in store.

Detour's audiences have become accustomed to enjoying some ripping yarns from the pen of resident comedy playwright Devon Williamson, but in Murder on the Menu he has surpassed himself.

Williamson works in several classic lines in ways Shakespeare never thought of – such as Romeo's "What light through yonder window breaks?" when he catches a rear view of Sophia bending over and "O that I were a glove upon that cheek" when she happens to have her hand on her posterior – that had the audience in stitches.

And, of course, you can count on a predictable gag like being "stabbed through the arras" to be in there somewhere. An alternative title for this enjoyable romp could almost be "Carry On Shakespeare", though without the cringe-worthy political incorrectness that was the hallmark of the movies.

In his role as director, Williamson has benefited from a first-class cast. Everyone has clearly taken their part to heart and audiences can look forward to a polished performance all round. Full marks, too, for the imaginative make-up and costumes.

Murder on the Menu runs until April 13. Several nights are already sold out so if you plan to go it is well worth booking tickets early.

– Paul Chapman