Review of Murder at the Ochi Rios Express, Catford Broadway, 25th November 2018

I attended Catford Broadway Theatre on Sunday 25TH to see the Jamaican Comedy Murder Mystery ‘Murder at the Ochi Rios Express’  put on by Harmony Productions. The show had opened at the theatre the night before.  I had been anticipating attending the show for a while, as I’d had the pleasure of seeing Charles Tomlin in action some years ago and interviewing him as well and he would be playing the part of Detective Poirot.

It was a very cold evening, but all roads led to Catford Broadway theatre and I was sure lots of laughter would soon warm me up.  As I approached the Theatre I could see a hype of anticipation from many of the Theatre Goers.  I too was curious about what the evening would hold.

After collecting our tickets and being shown to our seats, we waited whilst chomping on some nuts purchased at the in-house store.   The show started a little after its designated time, but as many laughed this was ‘BM timing.’  The lights dimmed and an air of anticipation descended onto the auditorium.   The show was about to start, the scene was set and the action began.  The show bought together a collection of Detective and Inspector figures who were on prime time tv mostly in the 80’s.

Charles Tomlin set an impressive stance with his tall and striking stage presence whose character was portrayed as Inspector Poirot, his command of the French accent a little hard to understand at times, but on the whole, he made a very impressionable character as the British crime drama Agatha Christie's Poirot detective.

Then there was the curvy, sassy, hip swaying Allison Mason who played the owner of the Hotel, with her bossy drool, whose main motive through-out was to seduce the blinkered and uninterested Inspector Poirot, whilst seemingly and subtly planning the demise of one of the guests.  She had the knack of making abrupt decisions, meandering between her staff and guests, in a powerful almost dismissive way, supplemented with her infamous, smile - a smile that indicated 'nothing more to be said.'

Olive Miller, the maid, portrayed a busy body of a woman, with a lot to say, very nosey and curious, yet who was more than who she presented herself to be.  This character was the one that kept the thread of the play together, as she busied herself in between everybody and everything that went on, on the Ochi Rios Express.  A woman who knew about everything and everyone.  A detective herself in the making.

The loud, English PA, who was in Jamaica with her white boss, was a welcome addition of contrast,  highlighting differences of cultures, from another part of the world and whose ignorance and lack of cultural and colloquial awareness about Jamaican culture, dialogue and language was sometimes embarrassing and the audience responded to that  lack of understanding. Through this character, the audience got a sense of those differences which revealed how a lack of integration and willingness to be part of and understand people from different backgrounds and also how taking ones 'cultural mannerisms' into another setting, created misunderstandings.

And then there was Detective Colombo, impersonated by Wayne Rollins whose dirty rain mac, irritating rambling, pretend forgetfulness and his one good eye were reminiscent the original 1980’s character.  Adding his own ‘Jamaican styley and flair’ Rollins was funny at times, with his bad bwoy, rogue attitude and swagger  - many times having the audience laughing as they recognised cultural behaviours and attitudes in the swagger of his bad bwoy walk and colloquial patois.

Then there was Miss Marples, played by Lavern Archer, a fictional character from Agatha Christie's crime novels and short stories.  This character added a feeling of an elderly aunt, who meant well but who could also be a little irritating with her constantly needing to find a meaning for everything in the ‘tea leaves’ – a modern day psychic Marples.  Renowned for her customary ‘Marples hat’ which gave her that grandma next door look, this actress added cultural appropriation and recognition of having constant gas and burping adding to the assembly of characters, who in their own way each added their own individual flavour and panache to the play.

The bar tender totally portrayed that of the horny, sweet talking Caribbean Bar tender.  Ready to serve in many ways.  Knowing how to ‘sweet’ his customers whilst also having other intentions in the mix – excuse the pun.  His character bought back memories of some of my own visits to Jamaica

As a whole, I found the play to be a little slow in places, and the story sometimes got lost in translation, so it was often difficult to understand where the play was going, even though the framework was there.  There seemed to be a lot of movement and busyness without it really adding to the context or enhancement of the play and there seemed to be a lack of direction and clarity about what it the play was trying to portray and therefore, much of the humour was lost.

Constant interruptions and distractions due to members of the audience arriving late up until an hour after the show had started along with various altercations around seating arrangements made it difficult to concentrate on the show and to maintain the flow of the show.

All in all, with some direction of clarity and a tightening up of the storyline the show has the potential to deliver a strong story line by capturing 1980s nostalgia for a 21st century audience.