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Crimes, Camera Action Q&A with Feargus Woods Dunlop and Heather Westwell

Crimes, Camera, Action is the latest show in the hugely popular ‘Crimes…’ series of comedy thrillers by the multi-award-winning New Old Friends.

New Old Friends are an award-winning theatre company dedicated to creating original comedy theatre, founded in 2008 and run by husband and wife team Feargus Woods Dunlop and Heather Westwell.

Read what writer, producer and performer Feargus Woods Dunlop, along with producer and performer Heather Westwell has to say about Crimes, Camera, Action.

Tell us a bit about Crimes, Camera, Action.
It is a really fun comedy thriller set in 1940s Hollywood. We’re enjoying playing with the glamour of the era and the archetypal characters and tropes you find in classic cinema and particularly film noir. We have a Bogart-esque private detective hired to look into the apparently accidental death of an actress and then meet all the various individuals that you find hanging around a film set.

We’ve cooked up some really exciting set-pieces which stay true to the style of our work and the ‘Crimes…’ series, but at the same time the new setting of film and Hollywood gives us a fresh palette to play in. It’s been wonderful exploring a different set of expectations and seeing where we can find the funny.

Ultimately the show, like all our work hopefully, is a warm-hearted and affectionate parody of its subject matter. There is a murder mystery to enjoy, whodunnit, there is a lovely romantic sub-plot, there is peril, but there is also a huge amount of comedy to be had in just four actors trying to pull off a large-scale Hollywood spectacular.

Crimes, Camera, Action is your sixth 'Crimes…' production, run us through some of the plays that came before. How does this show differ from the others?
The largest difference to the national tours (Crimes Under the Sun/ Crimes on the Coast & Crimes on the Nile/ Crimes in Egypt) is that we have a new lead detective. Whereas on the previous tours we followed the exploits of female Belgian detective Artemis Arinae, who got mixed up in some very Christie-like locked-door mysteries (all the suspects trapped together somehow), this follows Stan Shakespeare.

Stan is a hard-boiled private detective; cigarette, rumpled mac, trilby and all. He has a tongue-tied English assistant Oliver Laurence, who he takes with him on the case. The key difference in the case facing Stan as opposed to Arinae’s are that Stan’s suspects are free to come and go as they please, meaning we as an audience follow his journey more tightly. We’ve played around with this idea of the audience seeing the story only as Stan experiences it or chooses to share it. It’s been a huge amount of fun.

And what attracts you particularly to the murder mystery crime genre?
It’s instant heightened drama, which means that puncturing it with comedy is all the more satisfying. Particularly the way we create work, with a small cast of four actors playing multiple roles (I think Crimes, Camera, Action has 23 so far), when you layer up the intensity of the situation with the intensity of quick changes it makes for some gorgeous comic opportunities.

You’ve taken inspiration from classic Hollywood film noir movies, what are your favourites and why?
So obviously The Big Sleep and Maltese Falcon are two of the absolute best. Bogart’s performance in both is just spot on and translated the murky world that Hammett, Chandler & the rest created in the pulp paperback thrillers into this rich filmic language. All those things you think of; brooding looks, side lighting, shadows through blinds and smoke, lots of smoke. They all started, or reached their peak, with those two films. But we are also taking inspiration from other films from around the same period – the big Busby Berkley musicals for example, and the early Westerns and B-movie sci-fis that were just starting to appear.

How would you describe the show in 3 words?

Feargus: Fast, Fun, Filmic (love an alliteration)

Heather: Funny. Cool. Glamourous.

And what is next for New Old Friends?

It’s tempting to paraphrase a Bogart line from Casablanca, “we never plan that far ahead”. But the truth is we spend so much time planning what is coming next that sometimes we struggle remembering what the actual year is. Right now we’ve got some really interesting opportunities for 2022.

Crimes, Camera, Action comes to the Corn Exchange on Tue 22 & Wed 23 March. Find out more