Given my small but impeccable, show-stopping and gut-wrenching 6-line role as Juliet’s maid’s servant, Peter, in my sixth form’s Romeo and Juliet production, I was thrilled to immerse myself into the wackiness of theatre once more; this time, with a ticket to the 2023 Freshers’ show, ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’.
The play follows the title character (Alex Hewitt), a detective who believes in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. This charismatic fellow finds himself caught up in a gruesome murder. And with the company of the Cambridge Professor of Chronology (Morgan Allen), and Joseph (Richard Macduff), he embarks on a journey with stakes larger than the murder itself, stretching across time and space for the fate of humanity.
Pietro Andreotti, Katy Halliwell, and Ben Mansell have effectively adapted Douglas Adams’ 1987 novel into a stubendously vibrant play! Each producer and assistant producer, the supervising director, as well as the entire technical team, all deserve a huge Thank You for working together to create something fun and visually beautiful.
The colourful set and creative lighting managed to convey to me a ‘Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel meets Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune’. I especially enjoyed the smoothness of each fourth wall break, particularly the beginning, in which every character freezes so that Dirk’s monologuing is focalised more effectively. I also chuckled at the Swan Lake sequence, which, might I add, is an extremely valid coping mechanism for Richard’s anxieties.
Practically everyone acted for England, and I hate that mentioning the entire cast might make the review long-winded and clunky (I’ll probably do it anyway, and I apologise beforehand if my praise is uneven, because the performances’ quality wasn’t). First of all, I loved the exaggerated, campy facial expressions in each bombshell “dun dun dunnnn” moment before a blackout. Alex’s witty tone and mannerisms also stood out to me; excellent casting for an eccentric, fun and wacky man. I also enjoyed David Attenborough on pre-workout – ‘Reg’, they called him. Morgan Allen truly melted into this role, to the point where I believed I was laughing not at a student, but a fully grown senior in the twilight of his life. I must also praise Joseph Rix, the graceful face of the Swan Lake dance, for their wonderful slapstick comedy (I truly hope they recover soon) with Morgan, as well as the sweet Detective/Geek dynamic they reinforced with Alex.
However, despite the rambunctious romp of aliens, dark humour from Sergeant Gilks (Megan Lawrie) and funny back-and-forth dialogue between Dirk and his secretary Janice (Amy Lang), one scene which stood out to me loads was one of grief and disconnection- between siblings Gordon (Charlotte Pearce) and Susan Way (Melis Ensert). Gordon, a rich businessman, is the victim of the play’s first bloody murder. Susan spends much of the play in grief, the drowsiness and numbness of which is portrayed very accurately by Susan Way. Gordon attempts to communicate with Susan beyond the afterlife. His final attempt is extremely touching because of the dramatic irony of Susan’s total obliviousness to Gordon being in the room with her. I also surprisingly loved the chemistry between them, even though they didn’t have much dialogue with each other at all. It’s likely because they didn’t have much dialogue that there was chemistry. The irony of a shared space, yet no shared dialogue created a sense of the siblings’ longing really effectively- this makes me wish I got to see more between them!
I also loved the range of emotion portrayed by Vivek Kanani as Michael. I love the sense of awkwardness and mystery achieved through his body language towards Susan and the others, as well as his humorous gestures later on in the play.
Overall, this, funny, emotional, dark and yet light-hearted play is a brilliant start to the academic year for the SUSU Theatre Society. The play reveals to me the society’s versatility of genre, and genre-bending.
The SUSU Theatre Group return in January with ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, you can keep up to date with their shows here.