REVIEW: The Great Ridolphi | The Last Great Hunt
The Last Great Hunt‘s third Fringe offering, The Great Ridolphi, is a clever bit of theatre. Written by Chris Isaacs, directed by Adam Mitchell and starring Steve Turner, The Great Ridolphi is the story of a man running against time to solve an art heist. It’s a taut, swiftly-paced noir adventure that holds many treasures in its smoke-filled confines, with eccentric characters, magic tricks, hidden clues and train journeys across Europe.
Steve Turner plays Victor O’Meara, son of a famous illusionist, the eponymous Ridolphi. Ridolphi did a disappearing act from O’Meara’s life long ago and upon his death, left his entire fortune not to Victor but to an orphanage cum magic school for children. Victor reveals that the only thing his father left him was a briefcase full of worthless items, such as a pair of boots, a saggy cap, a walking stick, a blank piece of paper, to name a few. He is resentful of his father’s behavior in life and reluctant to connect himself to the publicly revered man.
He’s approached by a detective from Interpol about his father’s role in the theft of a famous painting by Goya, Witches in Flight. The detective asks to examine the contents of the bequeathed briefcase for clues in the case, but Victor refuses, saying, “you’d need a warrant for that.” The detective’s visit sparks Victor’s curiosity – maybe there’s something there he’s overlooked. So he does another search of each item and begins to make discoveries that take him across the world in search of his father’s true legacy.
And it’s a wondrous journey to take with Turner. He dons half a dozen characters with brisk pragmatism, and this no-nonsense approach to the script keeps things moving along at a clip; after all, time is not on his character’s side. Turner gives a command performance – strong, but not boastful, giving himself completely over to the material.
Isaacs’ writing blends the mystical with the practical, and walks steadily down the line between illusion and reality throughout. There is definite poetry in his imagery at the end, which I won’t reveal, of course, but suffice to say, he leaves the door open for us to make our own conclusions. Mitchell’s tidy, concise staging and focused vision is pitch-perfect for this work, and perfectly in sync with Isaacs’ material.
The production is lifted to another level by the very detailed vision of designer Trent Suidgeest; he’s put a phone box fitted with an old rotary dial phone and a scrim at the back onto which is projected images complementing each stage of the journey. It’s so very simple an idea, but so versatile for a rectangular box. His lighting is striking as well, with a bold, golden pyramid of light being the single effect a great deal of the time, catching the swirls of smoke that pervade the space. But he’s also built in some subtle touches, projecting a floorboard pattern onto the stage floor in one scene, for instance. This is good design that solves problems with a clear aesthetic.
This mystery adventure play reminds me very much of TLGH’s Monroe & Associates, with its clues, props, and retro feel, though in Ridolphi, Turner/O’Meara is the one putting two and two together, not us, the audience. So if you haven’t yet been lucky enough to get into the Monroe & Associates caravan, this might very well be an excellent alternative.
The Great Ridolphi is a ‘last great hunt’ for Victor O’Meara, and an exciting development in The Last Great Hunt’s journey.
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