Aeneas Faversham Forever

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Quality envelops every minute of Aeneas Faversham Forever like a pea-souper in Victorian London. It’s well-acted, brilliantly staged and artfully written. In fact, the stage seems insufficient to contain its filmic ambition.

The Ripping Yarns-style mystery involves a shadowy organisation called The Brotherhood operating in the 1890s with a mystifying link to the newly-opened Tower Bridge. Only children’s author Rufus Hambledon and disgraced policeman McAllister, who has an unfortunate tendency to shoot people in the face, can unpick their dastardly machinations.

Thus begins the action-packed escapade, a narrative step up from the previous sketch format creators Humphrey Ker, David Reed and Thom Tuck have preferred, although the plot isn’t exactly watertight.

Movies are parodied, theatrical conventions lovingly mocked, and a wide range of exaggerated characters created. All the while the evocative feel of Victorian London, with its gentleman criminals and well-mannered henchmen is maintained.

Quite how you’ll take to it probably depends on your attitude to overplayed comic acting, which is rife. A favourite trick is to deliver modern slang with 19th Century idiom, which proves remarkably effective. There are some nice little lines in this, but equally often it’s just the cartoon villainy that’s supposed to get the laughs in itself.

Shadow puppets fill in some of the ridiculous back story involving an evil oyster-god, adding another aspect to the slick, atmospheric production values that pervade everything from costume to soundtrack.

A Python influence is obvious in the silly voices – and the killer rabbits. The wide range of characters created by these threesome aren’t blessed with complex layers of personality, but there’s enough to get the jokes out.

Personally, I’d like to see the melodramatic facade drop a little – the biggest laugh comes the one time they corpse, interrupting the cod-serious tone of the show. And the best character is the most ridiculous, the semi-retarded Steve with his appealing malapropisms.

It’s a hugely entertaining, and often funny, comic caper, but also a little bit pleased with itself. A touch more tongue-in-cheek silliness wouldn’t go amiss.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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