Twins are special. Identical twins even more so they are the result of one fertilized egg splitting into two, giving them identical DNA. As a result, identical twins are as close as two people can be. In fact, twins are so special the town of Twinsburg Ohio holds an annual festival in honour of twins. All that bonding and mutual love is a lot of pressure to put on two people whose only real connection is shared DNA, but what happens if it all goes wrong and the twins not only do not get on but actually loathe each other. Welcome to Gerald Moon’s Corpse!.
December 1936 and while the whole country waits for an announcement from King Edward VIII, Evelyn Farrant (Tom York) has other things on his mind. Evelyn is an actor. A resting actor. Well, if truth be told, an actor who has been resting for around two years since an unfortunate incident over an understudy role and some chocolates. He lives in a grotty flat in Soho presided over by landlady Mrs McGee (Felicity Duncan). A friendly, garrulous old girl, Mrs M has taken quite a shine to young Evelyn, but still wants her rent – although she may be willing to come to an arrangement over that.A few streets away, lives Evelyn’s twin brother Rupert. The brothers’ lives could not be more different. Rupert is rich. He lives in a beautiful home with servants waiting on him, has a fiancé and, after a bit of prodding from Constable Hawkins (John Hastings), gives freely to the local police charity. Everything in Rupert’s life smells of roses whilst Evelyn is definitely on his uppers as they say. However, being an enterprising chap with a lively imagination, Evelyn has a plan. He – or rather, his acquaintance of genial Irishman, Major Powell (Paul Kemp) – is going to kill Rupert, and then Evelyn can take his brother’s place and be the rich, successful man he feels he deserves to be.
Creating twins for a production is an old trick. When Arthur Lowe played Mainwaring and his brother Barry in the Dad’s Army episode ‘My Brother and I’ back in 1975, a split-screen was used to great effect. Nowadays it is all CGI but ultimately it is pretty easy to do on the screen. Twins on stage are a different thing. I remember as a kid going to see my first production of ‘Twelfth Night’ and could not understand why people were getting Viola and Sebastian mixed up, as they looked so different. Corpse relies on a flexible set, high-quality direction and one actor to create the roles of Rupert and Evelyn. Well, this production has all three. Beth Colley’s revolving set, with its secret places, works well as both Evelyn’s flat and Rupert home. Clive Brill’s direction keeps the audience involved and uses both sleight of hand and misdirection to make the audience believe both Farrant men are on stage at the same time.
Tom York plays both the effete Evelyn and suave, sophisticated Rupert as two separate people beautifully. According to the programme, this is Tom’s professional theatre debut and full credit to him for making such a superb entrance into this world. Paul Kemp’s performance as Major Powell has its moments – especially when trying to clean his fingerprints from Evelyn’s flat – but if I am honest, I was not entirely drawn to the character as portrayed. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t feel the same connection I did with the other characters. Felicity Duncan is great as Mrs McGee, with some wonderful singing during the scene changes and – without giving too much away – she totally rules the stage in the wonderful scene in the dark flat.
Described as a comedy thriller, Corpse is, for me, a wonderful reminder of the good old days of the Whitehall Farce. The story is nicely written with enough plot twists to keep the audience on their toes. Just when I was congratulating myself for having worked out in my head where one part of the story was going, something came out of left field to take me completely by surprise, and even if the ending is a little predictable, it does not matter because it has been good fun getting to it. I am not sure Corpse will be everyone’s cup of tea but I really enjoyed forgetting everything else and spending time with Evelyn, Rupert et al. It may not be perfect but Corpse! is entertaining and fun and that’s good enough for me.
Review by Terry Eastham
Central London … December 1936 … Edward VIII is about to deliver his abdication speech. In a dingy Soho flat, flamboyant theatrical Evelyn Farrant is struggling to pay the rent to his devoted landlady Mrs McGee. Evelyn’s twin brother, Rupert Farrant, lives on the other side of town in upmarket Regent’s Park. He is rich … excessively rich. Enter Major Ambrose Powell, a petty-criminal. He is about to become the reluctant accomplice in Evelyn’s fool-proof plan to bump-off his own brother and inherit his vast wealth. Evelyn’s plan is so meticulous in the making, so perfect in the planning, that nothing, absolutely nothing untoward could possibly happen … or could it?
TOM YORK | FARRANT
PAUL KEMP | MAJOR POWELL
FELICITY DUNCAN | MRS MCGEE
JOHN HASTINGS | HAWKINS
WRITER | GERALD MOON
DIRECTOR | CLIVE BRILL
CASTING DIRECTOR | HAYLEY KAIMAKLIOTIS
SET DESIGN | BETH COLLEY
COSTUME DESIGN | NEIL GORDON
LIGHTING & SOUND DESIGN | PIP THURLOW
STAGE MANAGER | MELISSA BERRY
PRODUCTION MANAGER | ADAM SMITH
MARKETING | KENNEDY BLOOMER
PR | DAVID BURNS
By Gerald Moon
Directed by Clive Brill
Park Theatre (Park90)
Wednesday 4 March – Saturday 28 March
Press Night: Thursday 5 March at 19.00