Theatre Review: The Mystery of Irma Vep, Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

28 Feb
Andy Gray and Steven McNicoll

Andy Gray and Steven McNicoll

If you’ve ever seen and enjoyed a Hammer Horror or the Carry On team’s take on them, the very (very) funny Carry On Screaming, then the chances are high that The Mystery of Irma Vep, now on at Edinburgh’s Lyceum until 14 March, is for you.

The play begins in the front room of Mandacrest, the home of Lord Edgar (Steven McNicoll) and Lady Enid Hillcrest (Andy Gray), where housemaid Jane (Steven McNicoll) and odd job man Nicodemus (Andy Gray) are discussing the goings on in the house.

As a full moon hangs over Mandacrest, dark secrets and curious tales abound, as the past starts to touch on the present, causing much consternation for all involved…

Playing every character in the production, McNicoll and Gray are on top form, bouncing off each other (and around the stage) like two schoolboys at their Christmas play.

Gray in particular gives his all, a wonderfully OTT performance as Lady Enid causing the most laughter from the audience. McNicoll, a Lyceum mainstay, also cements his place as one of Scotland’s finest comedic talents, and its a joy to watch him develop each new character in his regular Lyceum appearances.

There’s little or no subtlety here, but that’s all in the plays favour. Costume changes are carried out at breakneck speed, the actor’s exiting stage left only to enter stage right a few moments later, the subterfuge aided by some fun set pieces that distract the viewer.

The production has a real recession-era feel to it at times, the brilliant opener to Act II, which I won’t reveal here, leading to a 99p shop version of an Egyptian tomb. Again, this is part of the fun and doesn’t detract from the rollicking nature of the show.

With winks to the audience, running jokes and a feeling of camaraderie between the two actors, Irma Vep with have you laughing right up to the  second curtain call – I hope the Lyceum sees fit to re-team Gray and McNicoll again soon.

The Mystery of Irma Vep runs until Saturday 14 March.

View the Irma Vep trailer and a discussion between Steven McNicoll and Andy Gray:

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