Review: Shot in The Dark

Rose Aitchison 1 November 2017

Shot in the Dark, an original piece running in the Corpus Week 5 Lateshow slow, is a kind of light-hearted ‘Carry On Cold War’, but with the misogyny taken out. 

Written by its directorial team of Simon West and Ella Godfrey, the play, set in 1958, centres around a party being held in the offices of ‘MI4’, the branch of the secret service tasked with executing Communist spies. Four British agents are celebrating the demise of a suspected Soviet spy at the hands of their team- but it is not immediately clear by whose hand specifically she has died. A series of flashbacks both elucidate and complicate our view of the situation, leading the play to its twist ending.

On the whole, I felt that the writing and the production value of the show was fairly good. A few of the jokes did rely quite heavily on slightly strained innuendos, taking pot-shots at Russian stereotypes, or mocking a character’s percieved intelligence. However, these were perhaps more genre markers rather than markers of the writing of this play in particular, and the jabs at the misogynistic and homophobic tendencies of ‘Carry On’-type narratives were both welcome and well-delivered.

I really appreciated elements of the production such as Rowan Hawitt’s live saxophone playing, which nicely smoothed out scene transitions which would otherwise have had the potential to be quite noisy and chaotic in the blackout. The acting and direction was also generally very slick, with Adam Reeves as the perennially anxious Kenneth and Anna Wright as the complicated comic relief of Penny particularly notable. However, I did shudder a little wondering how long it took the cast and crew to amass the dozens of empty bottles which littered the stage. These bottles were one of a few elements of set which I would perhaps question the usefulness of, as some scenes would definitely have benefitted from the actors having a bit more space to move around in. The semi-darkness occasionally employed by lighting designer Matt Jefford was very effective, and I personally would have liked to have seen him explore non-diegetic lighting a little more, especially given the title of the play- although the practicalities of doing this in a play with a largely non-abstract script must be taken into account.

Overall, Shot in The Dark is a well-rounded production, and an enjoyable watch.