In a piece published here, playwright Michael McStay describes Leopardskin as a “screwball comedy”. It certainly packs in the genre’s time-honoured tropes. Leopardskin is a battle of the sexes; a push-me-pull-you love story; a crime caper full of cross, double-cross and disguise.
Everyone is dressed in spotted animal print in this production for reasons unclear. Is it all a nod to the big cat in Bringing Up Baby?
The set up: petty criminals and con-artists Luka and Val (Guy O’Grady and Zoe Jensen) have hatched a plan to gull a youthful and eccentric Italian billionaire of his prized possession, a priceless one-of-a-kind clock he plans to give away to the most deserving cause at the climax of a extravagant party.
What Luka and Val don’t know is that they are being taken for a ride too, by master of disguise detective Dick Timms (Travis Jeffery), who has sworn to take down Luka by any means necessary – the more baroque, the better.
Samantha Young’s production, played on (and occasionally under) a catwalk bisecting the traverse stage, is sharply acted, fast moving and stopped in its tracks by an interval near the 60-minute mark.
There’s no big re-set of the stage or anything like that. It’s for the audience. Leopardskin’s relentlessness is such that you might feel the need for a break, just to clear your head.
The acting is cranked up to the point of frantic but the detail is good, especially from Jensen as Val and from Jeffery, whose polar-opposite characters sparkle. How anyone can maintain that level of performance having eaten so many profiteroles during the show is beyond me.
Ella Watson-Russell is appropriately commanding as corrupt senator Olive Darling. Emma Kew brings a clown’s touch to the stage as the incompetent Officer Beaks. Nick Gell plays several roles and his frequently thunderstruck police sergeant is particularly good.
Leopardskin doesn’t depict reality in any way, nor does it try to. The world and the characters in it are Fellini-esque. Its speedy speech rhythms and manic energy recall Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist.
Unlike Accidental Death, however, Leopardskin doesn’t really seem to speak to anything beyond itself. It feels like an exercise in something, rather than a play about something.
It’s enjoyable for that, certainly, but don’t expect this spotty comedy to follow you all the way home.