“The Perplexing Puzzle of the Pedigree Pet and the Policeman”
The latest play-reading in the On The Edge season at Chapter was a rare foray into comedy – Terry Victor’s “The Perplexing Puzzle of the Pedigree Pet and the Policeman”, first produced in 1981, in which supercilious detective Shirley Holmes and her hapless assistant Joan Watson investigate a particularly icky murder. The author also directed, cleverly making a comic virtue of the script-in-hand aesthetic, and the performers Rebecca Knowles (Holmes), Rhian Cheyne (Watson), Liz Gardner (the older Watson, narrator and MC), Natalie Paisey (damsel in distress) and Aled Herbert (stagehand and chief suspect) were obviously enjoying themselves. The play would certainly have benefited from having some of the references updated (the SPG, Sham ’69, etc), and the integration between the old-school and modern elements of the narrative (e.g. the urban riot) seemed a little awkward to me. On the whole, though, jolly fun.
The most recent “On The Edge” reading I attended, at Chapter, Cardiff was of “No Offence”, by veteran actor and author Terry Victor, who also directed. Described as a “comedy of terrors”, it depicts a small theatre company (“Fire On Stage!”) staging a provocative performance piece on the subject of censorship, which is eventually disrupted by agents of the repressive state. Very elegantly written, it ably satirises the self-importance of the artist, and skewers past injustices, such as the hounding of Lenny Bruce (although, as I understand it, he was to a large extent the author of his own misfortune, and had, perhaps, a simplistic take on the power of language) and Mary Whitehouse’s attack on “The Romans in Britain” (whose director, Michael Bogdanov was in the audience). An intentionally unfunny, self-righteous stand-up comedy segment in the middle seemed a bit of a dead weight, however; and the play lapsed into melodrama at the end, which tended to undermine the measured nature of the debate it aimed to inspire. An excellent cast though – Julie Barclay, Joshua McCord, Laura Dalgleish, Dan McCloud, Liz Gardiner – and the piece certainly provoked thought, even if only about our own boundaries, censorship being something to which everyone objects, until the point at which we don’t. Perhaps this kind of internal conflict, rather than clenched-fist confrontation with religious-political authoritarianism, might make a good subject for a more nuanced kind of drama.