The New Theatre is the cosy and intimate setting for Catch Me If You Can: a Bill Kenwright presentation, originally written in 1965 by Willie Gilbert and his physician-turned-creative-partner Jack Weinstock. Being an audience member felt like sharing in a man’s descent into madness. Set against the backdrop of a cosy log cabin in the Catskill Mountains, Daniel Corban’s (Patrick Duffy) new wife disappears. Seemingly traumatised, he harasses the haphazard Inspector Levine (Coronation Street alumnus Gray O’Brien) into helping him solve the case.
It comes as a shock, then, when a vivacious blonde enters the cabin and announces she is the elusive Elizabeth Corban returned. Daniel Corban insists she is not his beloved, and the question as to who this mystery woman is pervades the entire production.
Catch Me…’s plot is fairly unique in its ability to keep the audience hooked for the entire two-and-a-half-hour running time, a testament to Bob Tomson’s directorial finesse. The collective gasp of the audience in the play’s final moments, when the fate of Elizabeth Corban (Linda Purl) was truly revealed, was so loud it could surely be heard on Queen Street. The intensity would almost be too much to handle if it wasn’t accompanied by its ability to create deep belly laughs from the audience.
Moments of high stress are soothed by the brilliance and wit that oozes from the script, Levine’s wisecracks perfectly balancing Mr Corban’s ‘fizzing’ anxiety. The audience yearns for the inspector to support what appears to be a frail and confused old man, cruelly deceived by the fraudulent-yet-brilliant mastermind that is Elizabeth Corban. The ambiguity of their relationship and the lack of effort put into solving the case by Levine, though sometimes confusing, culminates into a plot twist I don’t think even the most sleuthy of armchair detectives could have guessed.
This play is easy to lose yourself in, which in the current climate is a somewhat “delightful escape” as Linda Purl herself noted. A Catch Me If You Can audience member is truly taken on a mental rollercoaster that they are unwilling to get off.
New Theatre, Cardiff, Mon 28 Feb
Catch Me If You Can is at the New Theatre until Sat 5 Mar. Info: here
words DAISY GAUNT
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