20 October 2012

The White House Murder Case at the Orange Tree

The White House Murder Case takes us in to familiar territory for the Orange Tree, a critique of the political process that highlights its flaws through humour. The Conspirators comes immediately to mind and there have been other similar plays.

This is a play about American set forty years in the future that was written forty years ago.

Familiarly, America is stuck in a foreign war that it is making a mess of. Obviously this was inspired by Vietnam whereas the modern resonance is with Iraq and Afghanistan. In this case it is Brazil.

Back at home the weak President struggles to deal with the war as the election approaches. His inner cabinet are worried and make plans to save the Presidency and the Party. Along the way the President's wife is murdered and it can only be by one of the inner group.

The way in Brazil takes a turn for the worse when an experimental and illegal weapon is deployed (shades of Agent Orange) only to fall on American troops.

The stage is split in to with the President's office on one side and the Brazilian jungle on the other. It is a bit clumsy and hampers the usual free movement that the unique stage allows but it just about works.

The play just about works too.

The first half is a little slow as we build the scene and get to the murder. The second half is much crisper and we laugh regularly at the military disaster in Brazil (many body parts are featured here) and at the ineffectual men running the country.

There is a murder mystery to solve too and the solving gives us a quite a surprise, as does the reaction to the solving of the mystery.

I found the play to be a little patchy but the strongest patch was in the President's office in the second half and that was strong enough to carry the evening thanks to the solid cast.

Finally, a thank you to Tony Larkin for providing the cast photograph. He took the official press photographs for the production and let me use one despite us being regular rivals in the pub quiz at the Willoughby Arms on Sunday night.

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