JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE JAZZ CLUB MURDER at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 2.10.13.
4 stars ****
AS IAN RANKIN’s first play Dark Road divides opinion at the Royal Lyceum, here comes the lunchtime Play, Pie and Pint season with an elegant miniature example of just how well genre crime fiction can transfer to the stage, given absolute clarity about which genre is in play.
Featuring Canon Sidney Chambers – the same Grantchester sleuth-cum-cleric who appears in his short stories – James Runcie’s Jazz Club Murder takes the form of a smoky 1950’s British B-movie, as it tells the story of the murder of the lovely young daughter of ex-con and club owner Phil “The Cat” Johnson, and of the Canon’s earnest efforts, as a jazz fan and club regular, to find out whodunnit.
And the joy of Marilyn Imrie’s perfectly-pitched production is that it works so gracefully with its chosen style, as Frances Thorburn delivers a belter of a performance as gorgeous jazz singer Gloria Dee, and Paul Dodds’s affable Canon Chambers holds the narrative together, as an amateur sleuth who really does believe in love, forgiveness and hope. The element of jazz performance in the story lends itself beautifully to the live stage, with George Drennan on trumpet and keyboards. And if the tone is sometimes playful – with the odd ripe pun, and some sly theatrical jokes about Frances Thorburn’s double role as both Gloria, and the Canon’s posh lady-love Amanda – the laughs are never allowed to get in the way of a story well told, and, in Miss Thorburn’s case, quite beautifully sung.