Murderous Instincts, The Savoy, London

A camp delight - just be sure to have a mojito first
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Reading reports of the strife-ridden run-up to this London opening, you began to feel that Murderous Instincts should be renamed Suicidal Tendencies. If ever a show looked as though it would be dancing out of town, but quickly, it was this "salsa comedy murder mystery".

Written by Cinda Fox, heiress of the Firestone rubber company fortune and produced by her spouse, Manny, the show has been through more directors than Elizabeth Taylor has had husbands. One (Bob Carlton) was bawled out by Manny during the interval of a Norwich try-out. Another (Michael Rooney, son of Mickey) had his application for an emergency work-permit blocked after representations to the Home Office from British Equity. It gave a delicious new twist to the old gag about directors "phoning in a production" when, for a couple of weeks, Rooney actually tried to oversee the show from the other end of the line in Paris.

Could Murderous Instincts possibly be as entertaining onstage as it has been off? Well, the answer is: at times, damn nearly. Licked into last minute shape by "artistic advisers" Murray Melvin and Syd Ralph, the show is daft as hell, camp as Carmen Miranda's headdress, and tacky above and beyond the call of duty.

But it's hard to resist a show where the wondrous Nichola McAuliffe, letting rip with a power-vibrato that a road-drill would envy, gets to play a musical cross between a Tennessee Williams heroine and Margarita Pracatan. Her role is that of Edwina, the newly-widowed spouse of a rum tycoon. As the dysfunctional family gathers for the reading of the will and to ponder Edwina's subsequent disappearance, secrets - teenage abortions, hidden homosexual leanings - start to tumble out of the closet.

There are two problems. One is that the camp outrageousness can't get a real head of steam because it keeps being interrupted by straight-faced soul-searching numbers. Arvid Larsen and Jonathan D'Ellis are a hoot as family man Colin and his clandestine queeny boyfriend; the daughter who married the wrong man is not. The other is that we are kept waiting too long for the salsa. The idea is that all these characters are so uptight that the Latino beat has to remain in the background until they have shed their inhibitions. Apart from one ensemble explosion of gay lib, it's only in the final nightclub scene that world Salsa champion Jhesus Aponte and partner are allowed to pulsate with precision wit and sexiness.

Imbibe a few judicious mojitos first, and you could have a ball.