Tychy shares something in common with Felicity Hopkins. I will announce to everybody that I am going to see a play at the Surgeon’s Hall, say the Melbourne SNAFU Theatre‘s show “Murder at Warrabah House,” and there will be general expressions of interest. Yes, it would be nice to go to the theatre, and you are always banging on about it. But as the hour of the play approaches, a succession of text messages will arrive, apologetically cancelling. Once again, I will have to go all on my own. The same trouble has obviously hit “Murder at Warrabah,” with the cast pulling out one by one at the last minute, leaving the poor Felicity Hopkins to perform all of the parts by herself.
I am being facetious, but there is something inescapably incomplete about “Murder at Warrabah.” However fine a solo show may be, it would always make a much better play, just as an indifferent orchestra will be invariably more appealing than the most superb one man band. For a single actress to perform all of the parts in a play is certainly an achievement, but not one which is essential or even relevant to the performance’s success. One has to work very hard to concentrate on “Murder at Warrabah,” and it is a while until the audience can sit back in their seats and enjoy the show. This is not to say that it is a bad or even a mediocre play – it is merely a solo show.
The traditional Agatha Christie country-house murder mystery has endured a slow death by a thousand parodies, but “Murder at Warrabah” nevertheless manages to wield a very blunt knife to surprisingly brilliant effect. The budding crimefighter Arthur Parrish and his sister sidekick Hattie are remarkable creations, and their characters are very powerfully brought to life. But there is a lot of room to establish this monologue’s other characters, who seem like colourless wooden props that are extended only for the Parrishes’ use. “Murder at Warrabah” is a short and engrossing piece of theatre, but its technical ambitions as a solo show end up betraying a greater promise.