When the cat prowls, the flock takes fright…
The classic thriller ‘The Cat and the Canary’ opened at Birmingham’s Alexandra theatre last night, bringing a fun mixture of haunted house horror and murder mystery thriller to the stage. The story of a single night spent in the former home of Mr West after the reading of his will, 20 years after his actual death, is full of shocks and surprises, but mixed with humour and wit that brings to mind the best of Agatha Christie. A fabulous ensemble cast ensured that the audience leaves the theatre highly satisfied, although with at least one question still on their lips.
Twenty years after the death of Mr West, his descendants gather at a remote mansion to learn who will inherit his vast wealth and the hidden family jewels.
The heir is revealed to be crime author Annabel West, but there is a codicil to the will that states if Annabel is to die, or found to be mentally unstable, then the house and riches will pass to a second heir. What follows is a night of shock and horror, as member of the household go missing, walls open to reveal secret passages, and it is revealed that there is a homicidal maniac from the local lunatic asylum on the loose, possibly in the house itself. Will anyone survive the night in order to claim the riches?
The beauty of The Cat and the Canary lies in the ensemble cast who are clearly having great fun with the material. Tracy Shaw is a fabulous Annabel, all sunny disposition to all appearances, but hiding a secret from childhood which may just make her mad after all. Gary Webster has a lot of the best lines as Harry, a bit of a brawler but with a heart of gold. Ben Nealon is all arrogant charm and style as the actor Charlie, whilst Anthony Costa from Blue steals some of the scenes with his portrayal of the wimpish vet Paul, employing a slapstick style right from his hilarious entrance.
Stage veterans Marti Webbe and Eric Carle both shine in their roles, with Webb in particular raising questions with her seemingly nice persona that often seems to slide into bitterness. Priyasasha Kumari as Cicily adds a more calm and reasoned presence to the cast. The cast is round out by the legendary Britt Eckland, who is quite frankly fabulous as the slightly creepy housekeeper Mrs Pleasant. That voice is still hypnotic, and she totally sets the creepy tone that resonates throughout the production.
The wonderful sets and costumes create a wonderful vintage feel to the production, whilst the atmospheric music (playing while the curtain is still down) helps to create an uneasy tension that adds to the play. The fact that there is a streak of humour throughout also makes this a more rounded production that a mere murder mystery.
The Cat and the Canary is sparkling fun with a great ensemble cast, and a lovely twist in the (cats) tale.
The Cat and the Canary
The Alexandra, Birmingham
Mon 4 Oct – Sat 9 Oct 2021
Tickets available from £13.00, subject to a transaction fee of £3.65
Click here for ticket information