By Natalie V.
Creating a world with morbid humour, captivating plot and conniving characters, 39 Blyth Boulevard, written by Cullen McGrail and directed by Izzy Solis Lozano at the 2017 Youth Infringement Festival, is sure to draw you in.
As the cryptic Mrs. M and determined detective N. (Sarah Thuswaldner and Andrew Foster) tell their story, we fall into a deceptive world where we are reminded that not everything is always what it seems.
Mrs. M is the landlady of 39 Blyth Boulevard, which is home to eleven other tenants. She has only ever seen one of them, Vivian, in person as M prefers the quiet, antisocial lifestyle. One day, there is a call to the police: Vivian’s body was found outside of the home by none other than Mrs. M! And so it is up to Detective N. to investigate. At first, the elderly woman seems sweet and a little bemused, but as he keeps interviewing her, the detective finds out that there is more to Mrs. M than meets the eye. She is in fact observant, cunning and intelligent. She has memorized the footsteps of all the tenants of the building, and the floors on which they live. She has found out what they do, whether they be a businessman or student, and knows by heart the times of their usual comings and goings. As Detective N. delves deeper and deeper into the case, he uncovers telling holes in the old woman’s story that lead him to the big question –
Is Mrs. M really as innocent as she claims?
Without any major changes of decoration, the set consisted of a detective’s office and an old woman’s apartment. When I walked into the theatre, I was surprised that there was 1920s era furniture as well as that of the 21st century. However, as the play went on, everything fell very perfectly and satisfyingly into place. It is revealed to us that the elderly Mrs. M is a hoarder – she never throws anything away, which explains the numerous notebooks full of logs she keeps of anyone who enters or exits the building. In the back middle of the stage is a thin white door on a frame, which remains untouched until the very end, when we find out the true meaning behind Mrs. M’s story.
On the left side of the stage, there is a simple table with a glass of water and a notebook. This is clearly the office of the detective. The scenes alternate between the scenes in the detective’s office and the home of Mrs. M. I thought it was an interesting and creative choice to make Mrs. M think about what she would be doing at home while answering questions for the detective in his office. This adds an extra layer to her, as we would see her as a slightly eccentric woman, but adding this detail makes her seem positively peculiar. This uncovers a new thrilling aspect of the story because it creates suspicion around Mrs. M’s story.
Although the characters are played by much younger actors, I found them to be very realistic and believable. The only thing I think could improve this production is by drawing a realistic human silhouette on the fabric in the closet scene. I think that using a cartoonish silhouette made that moment unintentionally funny, which it didn’t need to be as the next scene was also quite hilarious. I found that as there was a certain air of realism throughout the play, this particular moment was very out of place.
Overall, I would recommend this play to anyone with a darker sense of humour and a love for light mysteries. This play is definitely an hour well spent and makes for a satisfying trip to the theatre.