Dial L for Latch-Key – Etcetera Theatre

The worst professional production I've seen was of a play called On the Playing Fields of Her Rejection at the Drill Hall early in 1996. The flyer was fabulous, promising mix of lesbianism, astronomy and gardening. The reality was tedious, biting the carpet bad. At one point, the play featured a solar eclipse and, when the stage lights went out, there was nervous applause from those who thought that, at last, it was over. No, and there was no interval for people to leave during either. So they were openly leaving in the middle of scenes. Come the real end, I remember at least some of the cast looking suitably embarrassed. (Amusingly, the director still has it as a proud point on her CV, even if it is noticeable she doesn't appear to have ever directed anything else.)

Why do much on that play? Because this one is not much better. Again, the publicity was great:

We tried to dial M for Murder. But instead, we accidentally dialed L for Latch-Key…
A plotting husband who strongly resembles Ray Milland…
A framed wife as eleganced out as Grace Kelly…
An Inspector straight out of Monty Python…
Hitchcock would be spinning in his grave, if he weren’t suiting up for his cameo.

The idea of spoofing Hitchcock's films is great. (See Mel Brook's film High Anxiety, for example.) But here what is supposed to be a mash-up of his greatest hits is merely messy. Film titles clunk when dropped and, a couple of sniggers aside, it's simply not funny. In the penultimate words of the piece, "it's just stupid". It's also very short at just over half an hour. Normally that's a bad thing, especially at the price, but here it's more of a relief.

1/5

8 thoughts on “Dial L for Latch-Key – Etcetera Theatre”

  1. I don't know about that Ian. I rather enjoyed it. It was a bit over the top, I guess, and I can't quite figure our the choice of actors, but the play itself was a spot of good fun.

  2. I have been thinking about what was wrong with it, and while it feels horrible to say 'everything', that's not too far off. At the moment, it's a way too extended sketch rather than a play in its own right.

    So, it started ok, with the author doing his Hitchcock impersonation, but went downhill from there.

    I know it's a sign of aging when police look young, but the inspector is miscast, and in no sense is out of Monty Python. The husband spends about three pointless minutes (i.e. about a tenth of the play!) waving the cricket bat around for no good reason. Having the wife change nationality in prison might be ok, but it's not set up or exploited. The singer plot – someone please tell me why copyright is claimed on her name in the 'programme' – might have gone somewhere (exploring the sexuality of Hitchcock's heroines?) but didn't. And the 'person who knows too much about Hitchcock'.. we're back in sketch territory.

    As per the date of the review, I saw it on Friday, when, for some reason, some of the cast had just changed. (A couple of different actors did the first couple of nights.)

  3. Ian,
    I don't disagree. The script was a bit Saturday-night-livish at points, but the audience was laughing. I wager that in a larger theatre and with some re-working, it could be better. Didn't see the program, so I can't comment.
    S

  4. Valuable feedback Ian and like to comment in no particular order

    Miscast Inspector: An actor in his late 20s and did a great performance

    Hitchcock Appearance: That was me and thanks for that

    Waving cricket bat: Purpose to show menace and perhaps needs more work

    Sketch: Nothing wrong with a comedy sketch as for length well there is nothing worse than a 2 hour epic that goes on and on

    The Singer: Not a singer. In fact a dominatrix character from my previous play, hence copyright, and acted as intermission device /foil

    Hitchcock’s heroine and their sexuality: I agree I could have developed something more here but remember I did not write play

    Russian character: I thought she did great job and so did most of audience

    Hope this helps and Google New End Theatre and you get info about March productions: Hitchcock Homage back to back

  5. Thank you for that.

    I've thought about what what could have made it a '2' or higher rather than a '1'. (Had it been totally bad, I would have said '0'.)

    Part of my problem is that I came with hopes and expectations. Fairly obvious that: out of everything else – around a hundred shows – on that Friday evening, I picked this. I left feeling that it had been a bad choice, despite having tried my best to like it.

    So while I am not going to suggest having worse publicity 🙂 I think it would have been better to have been more open about the length, for example. In film terms, it's a short, not a feature. A Hitchcock film is 80 or 90 minutes (or more) not 30. Had the publicity called it a 'one act play' at least, that would have been a clue. Or have it at lunchtime.

    But ultimately, I think it's the script that is the main problem and the main reason that I think of it as a sketch is that the plot doesn't work for me.

    Here's the critical difference between this and High Anxiety: the plot of the latter is internally consistent (no nationality changes for no apparent reason), tighter (there's probably more wasted time here) and doesn't cheat (no revealing that we're in Rear Window at the end). As a piece, it breaks the fourth wall better and is funnier too.

    But clearly we disagree about the merits of the script, or you would have picked another play.

    Oh, and hooray for people liking it more than I did, for you all as well as them.

  6. Simply put: the worst play I have ever seen in England. And this from a Canadian who has see over 538 plays in 23 years in your wonderful country.

    None of the half dozen or so "actors" could act. The story did not make sense at all… and it was only about 30 minutes long (the only good thing about the play).

    When it ended the 2 girls beside me turned to me and asked if we could get our money back. I thought the woman behind me was going to cry.

    So if you are wondering why I am writing this comment 6 months after the fact it is because I collect posters for all the plays I see and I HAD to have one of these just to remember the experience. I was just looking at the poster today.

    The poster by the way is Brilliant!: a wonderful throw back to the Hitchcock film posters. A pity the play wasn't.

  7. Thank you John

    I directed the play and thank you for the constructive comments .I do remember you as you offered to buy a poster off me and I kindly gave you one for free .

    I am sorry you had such a bad experience .
    I agree with you about the length and also the story ,I did not write the thing ,however I will defend the actors and thaey all acted to the best of thier ability with what was in effect lousy material .

    I am back in town with 2 new shows this year so please check out my website and I gladly give you complimentaries .

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