Midnight at Puss Creek (Jambiz Productions)
Directors: Trevor Nairne and Patrick Brown
Cast: Camille Davis, Glen Campbell, Courtney Wilson, Sharee McDonald-Russell and Oliver Samuels
Venue: Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston
Tyrone’s Verdict: B+
Jamaican theatre could do with more writers courageous enough to go against the grain in a bid to deliver the daring and the risky. With Midnight at Puss Creek, playwright-codirector Patrick Brown and his cast of usual suspects (pun definitely intended, this time around) have pulled off an impressive feat: repositioning the classic murder mystery with a blend of stellar technical work, deadpan humour, sardonic wit and that intrepid Jamaican element.
Glen Campbell soars in multiple roles, with customarily strong performances also coming from the remainder of the cast, comprised of Oliver Sanuels, Camille Davis, Sharee McDonald-Russell and Courtney Wilson. And it wouldn’t be a complete Jambiz production without the hugely enjoyable punchlines and big, side-splitting laughs. Still, it’s the refreshing and suspenseful story that leaves a lingering impression. Midnight is a clever, hilarious tale of conspiracy, family dysfunction and revenge, presented against the backdrop of a group of relatives gathered for what should be a sombre occasion.
At her lavish home in the frigid hills of Coleyville, wealthy cat lover Miss Zelda is on her deathbed and, as is usually the case, loved ones have gathered at the home (Puss Creek) as she nears her final breath. But this is no ordinary, well-meaning batch of people. Ambitious son Edgar (Samuels); snooty granddaughter Rita (McDonald-Russell), who is a dead-ringer for The Addams Family’s Morticia; frustrated maid Della (Davis) and two-timing loverboy Claff (Campbell) waste no time in letting their true colours show. These are conniving, scheming folks who are highly suspicious of each other – and with good reason. They can’t wait for the reading of the will, already making plans for their share of the spoils.
Little surprise, therefore, when someone in the house turns up dead from a gunshot. Everyone is immediately a suspect when the fast-talking chief investigator (Wilson) arrives on the scene, and a meandering case of whodunit ensues. It’s an excellent setup, written with intricate plotting and head-scratching twists that puzzle viewers. Highly commendable, too, is the spooky atmosphere that the mix of dim lighting, smoke and good sound effects evokes.
Though the play sporadically sags around the middle, the performances (Campbell and Davis are particularly impressive) and large chunk of humour are pure delight, leading up to the eagerly awaited climax when the killer is finally ‘unmasked’. No doubt that faithful fans of Brown, a fearless risk-talker, are in for a pleasant surprise, as Midnight at Puss Creek offers solid, first-rate entertainment. It’s a very strong contender for 2010’s Best New Jamaican Play.