Exeter’s own award-winning Le Navet Bete theatre company brought Dick Tracy to the Northcott Theatre this weekend. Full of laughs, ridiculous behaviour and fun with pyrotechnics, the group crafted a show for the whole family to enjoy.
Inspired by the 1930s American comic strip character Dick Tracy, which first appeared in the Detroit Mirror in 1934, this production finds the world-famous detective at his prime – crime is at an all time low, the police chief praises him and he has a girlfriend, Tess Trueheart, who adore him. However, when the notorious Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice is released from jail on good behaviour, Tracy is suspicious of his motives. After being reunited with his loyal henchmen, Caprice hatches a plan to control the city through manipulation of the public and the police force, leaving Tracy to solve this mystery alone.
The show was entertaining and kept the audience laughing throughout. The cast of four used physical theatre to each play a variety of characters, combined with hideous masks that created exaggerated facial features. My personal favourite was Caprice’s minion played by Al Dunn, who had trousers far too short for him and a massive forehead; he completely committed to the role, every movement was flawlessly over the top and his comical facial expressions were perfect. All were brilliant at maintaining character, but there were a few breaks every now and again. The characters were often silly but even the ‘bad guys’ were lovable. They played homage to classic slapstick comedy, including a funny sequence of throwing and hitting food in to the audience; I can imagine they would be a hit at comedy festivals, particularly the Edinburgh Fringe.
The costumes added to the hilarity of the piece, with bright colours, unflattering and misshapen clothes. This really brought the comic strip element to the stage; the exaggeration of the 1930s style and ‘gangster’ aesthetic was evident. The set was clever and slick, folding away and breaking apart to form the different locations. It was embraced by the cast too, they swung and jumped around on it; this interaction with the entire space of the stage, the imaginative use of props and dismantled stage pieces, helped to bring the production together as a whole.
The story could have picked up the pace at times, and the American accents were sometimes questionable, but it was still engaging and a lot of story was packed in to a couple of hours. Any mistakes during the performance were dealt with in an entertaining way, through improvisation and light-hearted audience participation. The cast were clearly having a great time, and it seemed to be very important to them to have such a great response in their home town.
The next ventures for the group are The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in Newbury, The Jungle Book in Plymouth, and Dracula: The Bloody Truth, which will kick off its tour with three nights at the Northcott at the end of March.
The show was very entertaining and I would definitely recommend checking this hilarious group out if you can. It’s always nice to support local acts, and you are guaranteed to have an enjoyable time whatever your age.
For more tour details check: http://lenavetbete.com/tour-dates/
(I do not own the photographs used in this piece)