This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
Anthony Horowitz’ Diamond Brothers books, chronicling the escapes and escapades of Private Detective Tim and his teenage brother Nick, lit the imagination of a generation of young schoolboys. They are ingeniously conceived, well written, and fantastically witty.
New Old Friends have taken on a huge responsibility in bringing the first of the series, The Falcon’s Malteser (surely the greatest title of any book anywhere, ever), to the stage then. They have tickled the dormant imagination of any Fringe-goer under 25. They have ignited the hope of Horowitz fans everywhere – which is pretty much anyone born after 1990.
Happily, they have created a funny, well-choreographed hour of comedy, embellishing and adapting the source material appropriately, yet always remaining faithful to the tone and humour of Horowitz’s book.
Tom Medcalf plays Nick, the piece’s intrepid, clue-finding, rule-breaking 13 year-old hero. Feargus Dunlop plays Tim, his bumbling, stumbling detective elder brother, who, in Horowitz’s own words, “couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle.” Together, with Nick doing most of the work, they pursue a stash of priceless diamonds that have been hidden somewhere in London by deceased criminal mastermind The Falcon, with a perplexing box of Maltesers as their only clue.
Dan Weather and Heather Westwell share a host of supporting characters between them – a diminutive Mexican, a swaggering British crime lord, a faded Russian beauty, and more – as the action races around London, from the Diamond brother’s dingy flat, to a dusky jazz club, to a deathly dangerous cemetery.
This is good, family theatre all round. Medcalf is suitably earnest in a chirpy, chirrupy performance. Dunlop gets a lot of laughs with his cluelessness and clumsiness, a hopeless Captain Haddock to Medcalf’s intrepid Tintin.
It is Weather and Westwell who truly impress, however. Their versatility, both physical and vocal, is given room to flaunt itself and all of their characters, from shrieking German hitmen to simpering octogenarian cleaners, are entirely and commendably distinguishable, not to mention comic.
Throughout, the cast’s synchronicity is sure-footed and secure. Comedy chase routines, swift scene changes that make use of a neatly designed set, and, of course, the inevitable slapstick falls – all are well-executed, to the great amusement of younger audience members.
The Falcon’s Malteser, just like the book it is based on, is simply great fun. It’s clever, witty, well-paced, well-acted and, most importantly, true to its source material. Best of all, for those who counted the Diamond brothers amongst their friends in their heady primary school days, there is a faint whiff of arresting nostalgia to the piece. Apparently, even Horowitz himself is a fan – and who can argue with him?