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REVIEW: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Utterly bright, utterly insane, and utterly, utterly fun


The theatre is such an absolute delight – for a couple of hours or so, you can watch as a different life, a different world unfolds in front of you. For a moment, you might be able to be someone else. I'm going to put it to you that no other play you will see at Cambridge this year will throw you so headfirst into such a different, joyous, absurd world as Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

First off, we all need to bow down to this show's incredible production team: the instantly evocative and distinct set design from Tim Otto (which, by the way, encompasses three separate sets on a goddam revolving stage); the bright, zingy, popping costume design from Sophie Scott (with three separate suits for Tom Nunan's Dirk – three seems to be a magic number); the seamless, cleverly utilised multimedia, and the bold lighting and sound from Eduardo Strike and Deasil Waltho respectively. Producers often go criminally unsung, but this is the sort of show which you can see deserves extra praise for what must have been a nightmare to organise, and Isobel Griffiths has steered a ship which has landed with a bang.

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Credit: Harry Taylor

Talking about steering a ship – Tom Nunan as Dirky Gently is the captain at the helm of this show, the coy, suave star of the evening. When he's on stage, it feels like someone's set off a firework indoors – or maybe released a herd of excitable puppies – or perhaps the stage itself has come alive. His physicality is palpable and always surprising, somewhere between Mr. Tickle and Matt Smith's Doctor Who. It's an electricity that quite simply cannot but infect the rest of the cast – Stanley Thomas as Richard Macduff played off Nunan sublimely as the really quite dumbfounded innocent caught in a web of wonderful whackiness.

Equally brilliant was Eleanor Lind Booton as Reg – I recently got the chance to see Booton in the Arts Show's production of Much Ado, and I can safely say that she has one of the most expressive, elastic, and dynamic faces I have ever seen on stage – period. The gusto with which she threw herself into the role is at times quite astounding, and she never once loses the clumsy charm that Reg demands as a character.

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Credit: Harry Taylor

Oliver Jones' direction is very often quite simply delightful. The scene transitions (using the rotating stage as it should be used – for creative, dynamic set changes and visual jokes) were all carefully thought out, and the action hardly dipped below thrilling. The only qualm I would have was the background noise you would sometimes hear in the middle of a scene as one of the three sets were being set up, but this was never really a big issue. Jones obviously trusts his actors to grab a scene and go with it – especially Nunan, who strutted about narrative scenes with nimbleness, completely avoiding the possibility of certain sections feeling to expositional.

Here's the thing about this show – a couple of times, there was a little mishap (a prop not coming on at the right time, a character being misnamed), but the insanity kept the show going, and it was sometimes the moments when actors had to improvise that had the audience in the biggest stitches. This is the sort of show where the actors are all obviously having so much fun, and trust each other so much, that it doesn't matter what happens – the night will be absolutely bonkers, feel good, and quite frankly top quality all the way through every time.

All in all, this was such a delightful night out, and captured the heart and soul of what a Douglas Adams adapted show should be. I left the theatre with a great big smile, and feeling alive with the spirit of silliness.

4.5/5 Stars.