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Columbo Prescription: Murder by Nash Theatre

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by Geraldine Massey (subscribe)
I'm an experienced corporate communicator and editor with an eye for interesting events and an attachment to my trusty Oxford dictionary.
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If you were watching television in the Seventies you should remember the shuffling, cigar-carrying, raincoat-wearing scourge of Los Angeles murderers, Lieutenant Columbo. Peter Falk's tour de force performance as the scruffy but gifted gumshoe enshrined Columbo in the pantheon of great fictional detectives. New Farm Nash Theatre have resurrected Columbo in their latest production, Columbo Prescription: Murder, and it's a smart and snappy resurrection.

Columbo Prescription: Murder
Image from Nash Theatre website.

[ADVERT]Columbo Prescription: Murder was first written as a TV play by Richard Levinson and William Link, the men who also gave us "Murder, She Wrote". It was later made as a pilot episode for the long-running TV series. Columbo was a little different from your run of the mill detective drama - not so much a "whodunnit?", as a "howshegunnaprovewhodidit?", because the murderer was always known to the audience from the beginning. This Nash production is based on the original play script and set in New York

Once again, as with all the Nash works I've seen, the little things are done well. Another Sandra Harman-designed program is this time presented as a police rap sheet, complete with cast "mug shots" and bio's. The split set, designed by Sue Watson gets the most out of the small stage and allows easy switches between scenes simply by changing the lighting's focus. Costumes were appropriate and the sound crisp.

Aaron Bernard and Nikki McCrea in Columbo Prescription: Murder. Image courtesy of Nash Theatre.

The small cast of six made good use of the tight, intelligent script, but the opening scene was a little slow to get moving. All credit goes to Paul Careless as Columbo, following on from his skilful work as Lord Henry Wotton in last year's Nash production of A Picture of Dorian Grey. It is surely a daunting task to take on an iconic character "owned" by such a fine actor as Peter Falk, but Careless pulls it off creditably, apart from some occasional inconsistency in his American accent. The idiosyncrasies are still there. Columbo is still the apparently bumbling, rambling figure underestimated by his criminal adversaries, but Careless and Director Sandra Harman have avoided the trap of trying to present Falk's Columbo holus-bolus and have teased out the character according to the script. Careless' Columbo is still comical and clever, but displays a little more of his avenging spirit.

Paul Careless and Simon Pagano in Columbo Prescription: Murder. Image courtesy of Nash Theatre.

Aaron Bernard is very good as the murderous Dr Flemming, so convinced that he has committed the perfect crime that he fails to see Columbo's web weaving ever tighter around him. His work in the surprising denouement is especially good. Natalie Mead is convincing as his lover and accomplice, capturing Susan's vulnerability, as well as her strength. I liked Nikki McCrea as the murder victim and good support was provided by Andrea O'Halloran as Miss Petrie and Simon Pagano as Dave Gordon.

Natalie Mead and Aaron McCrea in Columbo Prescription: Murder. Image courtesy of Nash Theatre.

Director Sandra Harman has given us a murder mystery that layers suspense, action and a dash of humour into a satisfying but deadly cocktail. Drink up I say.

Performances Dates and Times: Friday 20th, Saturday 21st, Friday 27th and Saturday 28th July, and Thursday 2nd, Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th August at 7.30pm. Additionally there is a 2pm performance on Sunday 22nd July and a 6pm performance on Sunday 29th July.
Venue: New Farm Uniting Church, Merthyr Rd, New Farm.
Cost: Adults $20, Concessions $15, Members & School Students $12
Bookings: Phone 3379 4775 or E-Mail

Thanks to New Farm Nash Theatre for inviting me to review their latest production.
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Why? Everyone loves a good murder mystery.
When: Until Saturday 4 August. See article for performance details.
Phone: (07) 3379 4775 for bookings.
Where: Merthyr Road Uniting Church, 52 Merthyr Road, New Farm
Cost: $20 for adults, $15 concession and $12 for members and school students
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