Aberystwyth Noir - It Ain't Over till the Bearded Lady Sings by Malcolm Pryce

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 15 May 2013
Sometimes I feel at a loss for words, while trying to comment on a radio production.  This was certainly the case with Malcolm Pryce's comedy drama.  Set in the seaside resort of Aberystwyth, this was a complicated detective story involving private dick Louie Knight (Phylip Harries) and his sidekick Calamity Jane (Catrin Stewart) investigating a case of the murder of Mr. Big Top, which leads them into the seedy world of the End of the Pier Show.  They meet a rogues' gallery of eccentrics, including the Amazing Mr. Marmalade (Matthew Gravelle), and games teacher-turned-lion-tamer Herod Jenkins (also played by Gravelle).  The plot goes through a series of twists and turns until the real murderer has been exposed, while Knight and Calamity forge a close relationship with one another in the process.
It Ain't Over ... adopts the kind of technique associated with comic sketch series such as Little Britain: Pryce takes a familiar situation and exaggerates it, so that we are drawn into a world of grotesques.  By doing so he satirizes the stylistic clichés associated with the film noir genre; the cynical private eye, the idealistic yet independent sidekick, the suspects who initially refuse to admit anything until they are cornered.  Such strategies are perfectly acceptable, but I still think that we should identify with the central character (i.e. the detective) in order to sustain our interest.  Despite Harries' vocally appealing performance, I did not really empathize with Louie Knight's struggles; and hence felt somehow detached from the story.  Nonetheless I did appreciate the efforts of a hard-working cast, especially Gravelle who played no fewer than four different roles.