Murder on Mulholland Drive, Theatr Clwyd (Mold)

OK, let’s get this straight from the start, this is not a stage version of David Lynch’s strange neo-noir 2001 film starring Naomi Watts. 

Mulholland Drive is a road that stretches 21 miles in Southern California, USA, which takes in scenic views of the Hollywood sign, Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley. It has some of the most famous and expensive houses in the world and is home to several Hollywood celebrities; and it makes the perfect setting for an Agatha Christie style whodunnit!

Who Killed Houston Ziegfried McCoy?

Murder on Mulholland Drive is a murder mystery play written and starring Richard Jones of Pheonix Theatre Company, Mold, a familiar name to those who frequent Theatr Clwyd. Set in the 1950’s, it is a cautionary tale of what could happen to a sleazy, middle-aged man, who happens to be head of one of the most powerful film studios in Hollywood. Houston Ziegfried McCoy has helped many hopeful starlets achieve their ambitions, but his methods have made him many enemies along the way.

Image taken from Pheonix Theatre Facebook Page 
Welcome Princess Kelly Gracelands. Houston made her a household name, until she fell under the spell of a Royal suitor and ditched Hollywood royalty for the real deal. She has quit acting for good…but what hold does Houston have over her to make her sign that one last contract?

Houston has his leading lady, but what political games must he play to get Raygun Ronnie to be his leading man now that Raygun has his sights set firmly on the White House? There’s got to be something other than his close friendship with Marilyn Marlow, the ditsy blonde the camera’s love…just so long as she doesn’t have too many lines to speak.

Marty McRooney, he has been the idol of swooning girls for over a decade, but as his looks start to diminish, so does his career; whilst he argues his case, he doesn’t really have a leg to stand on… not when the younger kid on the block turns up at Houston's office. James Mean, a superstar in the making, if only he’d slow down a bit…he’s an accident waiting to happen. And there, waiting in the wings with her pencil poised is Jodie Collings, if she can't get a part in a Hollywood blockbuster, she can write a bestselling novel and get Houston to buy the film rights so she can star in her film…can’t she?

"You Dirty Rat"

As you may conclude by the names of the characters, this is a murder mystery with a twist. Each character is a spoof of well-known Hollywood star and whilst it is a very wordy play, it is well crafted with witty dialogue that keeps the audience’s attention. Another clever trope to keep the upbeat pace of the play was the use of live music from a three-piece ensemble "J Edgar and the Hoovers." This worked well until the appearance of the detective Sam Shade, who for some reason, decided to introduce himself by bursting into a well-executed rendition of “Rawhide.” The delivery was good, but it was out of step with the rest of the play.

What also seemed out of place was the timing of the interval. It seemed, to me, that they forgot one scene before the interval and started the second act with it as an afterthought. This made the play feel a little clunky, however, this is an amateur (albeit a very professional) company and so I can’t hold a grudge against this possible faux pas. What I particularly enjoyed about this cleverly constructed script was its subtle ability to pay homage to past films, so that if you were a fan of the golden age of Hollywood you’d understand the references, but if you weren’t, it didn’t detract from the overall essence of the play,

Murder on Mulholland Drive was first performed last May but due to other commitments I was unable to attend, so I was thrilled to hear that the show had been brought back by popular demand. It is a play which feels very fresh and current, especially as we are now hearing more about the “casting couch” and the issues actors have had to overcome in order to fulfil their dreams at the hands of the egotistical Hollywood film director. It is a serious matter which this play has brought to life with a humoristic veneer, but despite the smiles and laughter, it does leave you thinking about what has gone on in the past, and a hope that it is no longer an accepted part of a persons career. Essentially though, this is a feel good play, and everyone I saw leaving the theatre had a smile on their face…no wonder audiences wanted to see it again.