Woody Allen's Murder Mysteries, Warehouse Theatre, London

God is dead - a whodunnit
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The Independent Culture

The principle joke in these yarns is that Lupowitz talks like your classic hard-boiled sleuth while being embroiled in ludicrously intellectual cases. For instance, when Lucy Victory's bottle-blonde femme fatale, called Heather Butkiss, wiggles in and says she needs him on her case, it turns out the missing person she wants tracked down is the Almighty. She ain't no nude model but a devious, incognito philosophy major. Our hoodwinked hero's enquiries, sidling up to local rabbis and pontiffs behind raised newspapers, suggest the whole business is a protection racket. And when God turns up dead at the morgue, the thinking lady's sleuth finds he's a prime suspect, because the cops reckon an existentialist dunnit.

Thanks to Allen's satirical and surreal wit, the scenarios are often irresistibly droll, but it must be said they haven't been converted from page to stage with consummate skill. Several of Clarke's dramatising techniques aren't dynamic enough, especially the Woody-soundalike hidden behind a screen and sharing the narration with Myers. Each skit tends to lose its narrative drive, and some of the posture-striking acting and US accents are less than dazzling.

However, the whole cast admirably doubles as a jazz sextet, crooning bluesy songs (with lyrics by Clarke) in the gaps between the stories, accompanying each other on sultry saxophones, the clarinet, double bass, fiddle and piano. Kate McCahill as the brassy Flo, has an outstandingly vibrant voice and the number "Blue Moon Time" - scored by musical director Warren Wills and sung by Myers as he slugs from a whisky bottle - is wonderfully lived-in and melodically enrapturing, like a slow-swirling fog.


To 19 February, 020 8680 4060