The Mystery of Edwin Drood Review


I didn’t know much about the 1985 Rupert Holmes musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood before I attended the show, but within five short minutes, I knew that I was in for a rollicking night of fun, mayhem, and fourth-wall breaking.

How did I know they’d break the fourth wall? Well not only is this made abundantly clear by Ensemble member and Assistant Director Sophie at the end of the opening number, but I also had the fortune of being a latecomer and walking right through the action to get to my seat. Nothing like a cheeky “nice of you to join us” to start a theatrical experience! (No shade though, I loved it. I’m also excellent at reciting “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” on cue now).

Photo by Clare Hawley.

For those unaware, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is based on an unfinished Charles Dickens novel of the same name. He died before its completion and many have attempted to complete the tale. Rupert Holmes does so in an incredibly creative way – the audience chooses the outcome! But more on that later.

The Reginald Theatre at The Seymour Centre was a fantastic space for the production. Its black-box quality ticked all the boxes for this pseudo-production and the minimalist design quality of the show really allowed the performers to shine. The muslin/fabric pattern costuming was incredibly effective amongst a set of bare flats and a fun easter egg nod to the twice-postponed production of Anyone Can Whistle was a bittersweet thing to spot amongst the set #rip.

Director, Alexander Andrews, really leaned into the joyful, campiness of the show – and in my opinion, it’s just the type of theatre that is needed at the moment. In his Director’s Note, he mentions that “Drood is [his] love letter to all the people who pour their hearts into the theatre they create” and you could feel that sentiment come through in the joyful and at times absurd chaos that took place on stage. Good chaos.

The cast is cracking. Expert vocalists with perfect comedic timing? It’s simply not fair. Special mention has to go to Ren McMeiken as Edwin Drood for a flawless performance in such a short rehearsal period. Whilst all the cast were absolute standouts, I particularly enjoyed the performances of Kimmie Jonceski as Helena Landless and Tisha Kelemen as Princess Puffer, and absolutely commend Zachary Aleksander and Jordon Mahar for their incredible take on “Both Sides of the Coin”. And how could I go without mentioning Addy Robertson’s vocals as Durdles that had me reaching for the throat coat. Impressive!

Zachary Aleksander and Ren McMeiken in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Photo by Clare Hawley.

Now, I’m a fan of a good #choice, and this production contained many of them (looking at Simon Ward’s Reverend Crisparkle here), but I do think a small downfall of the show was possibly the overabundance of #choices. Whilst spotting the odd choice here and there was fun at first, I found that I got lost in the small bits and pieces that actors were throwing into the mix – like scrambling to place or remove props and injecting out-of-character moments of modernity to Dickensian scenes – and effectively drawing me out of the plot. Moments like sneaking around spotlights or watching a character get mic’d up side of stage were thoughroughly entertaining but a touch distracting.

Both a credit and a critism, is the three-person band. Led by Music Director Andy Freeborn and featuring Renae Goodman on !multiple! reed and wind instruments and Austin Hall on percussion and kit, the band navigated the score adeptly and entertainingly – you wouldn’t think it was just the three of them! However, due to the incredibly dissonant nature of the scoring, I think we lost a lot of musical context from the overall sound. This just resulted in beautiful but at times jarring sounds.

My pickiness aside – the night was damn fun! And the fun really began in Act 2 when the audience got to pick the outcome of the story – who murdered Edwin Drood? Or was he murdered at all? ooOOOOOooh! Based on the events that had been presented, everyone in the seating banks yelled out in a chaotic cacophony just who they thought the murder was – from a selection of characters might I add. The cast then have mere moments to prepare alternate endings and perform them. After the show, I did go and listen to the 2012 cast recording just to hear the different endings and what each character’s motivations were. This being said, I was super happy with the narrative that unfolded the evening I attended

Little Triangle’s Mystery of Edwin Drood was everything I love in a theatre experience – silly, campy fun.

4 Stars.

Erica, 26 [she/her]

Little Triangle’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood played at The Seymour Centre from the 7th to the 16th July.