While I’m always eager to see new approaches to traditional storytelling, one of my biggest theatrical disappointments was when I went to see an all female version of Posh. Mainly this was because of my assumption that this new interpretation would be actual female characters playing these misogynistic roles.
Alas, the play (while well acted and directed) was simply women playing the roles of men. Different to the norm, yes, but hardly an interesting approach.
But Double Infemnity, the newest play by Naomi Westerman, Catherine O’Shea & Jennifer Cerys, is offering a new twist on an entire genre: the crime noir. The troubled detective, with a cigarette in his mouth and a dame looking for his help are wiped away; instead replaced by an actual female approach and attitude to the time period and genre.
Count me intrigued!
It’s the swinging 60s and former prostitute turned traffic cop, Effie-Lou (Katrina Foster), has a mystery at her door. Her friend, Jo, has disappeared without a trace, leaving the young cop at her wits’ end.
With no one else concerned for her friend’s safety, Effie-Lou takes matters into her own hands. But her investigation won’t be easy, as she is forced to deal with her interfering police partner, Brad; her sexist boss, the Chief; as well as needing to find the courage to face down her former pimp.
Director Adriana Sanford takes a simple approach in her portrayal of 1960s Los Angeles. A few scattered papers, a table full of knick-knacks, and a projector screen is all that’s needed to bring the era of sexual revolution to life.
But what brings it all together is the excellent work done by Foster in her role as the no-nonsense Effie-Lou. Though a one-woman show, Foster effortlessly embodies the many voices and characters that surround her on the long search for justice. Dressed in a snazzy treachcoat and hat to boot, she looks every part the private dick of old, as well as possessing the attitude and finesse to keep the entire story rolling on.
If anything, the production relies a little too much on Foster as an individual. With the variety of colourful characters, Double Infemnity’s style of writing does suggest that the presence of a second actress to inhabit these roles would have greatly helped. Instead the production makes the odd decision to rely on projected images of Brad Pitt and Danny Devito’s Penguin (as the police partner and pimp respectively), as well as numerous one-sided conversations.
Indeed, there are many peculiar production decisions, such as scene transitions being done in silence, or the decision to break the fourth wall. The latter choice may have worked in a more comedic story, but here it ends up not meshing with what is otherwise a dark and serious tale.
In the end Double Infemnity is a great idea with a disappointing execution. Though the trip through the mean streets of 1960s LA is enjoyable enough with Foster at the wheel, you can’t help feeling that a couple of rewrites and production changes would have resulted in a ride a little more exciting than a Sunday afternoon drive.
Double Infemnity was performed from 31st January – 4th February at the 2018 Vaults Festival.
Directed by Adriana Sanford
Produced by Tori Gretton
Written by Naomi Westerman, Catherine O’Shea & Jennifer Cerys
Effie-Lou – Played by Katrina Foster
Photo Sources: London Playwrights Blog