Industry insiders say it was "only a matter of time" before the sensational - and still ongoing - saga of the disappearance of Professor Thrupiece from a hotel room in Switzerland was made into a theatrical melodrama and sure enough, here it is.
The Phantom of the Cornarvin [Music by Antony Lewd-Webbing, Book and Lyrics by Tom Rice-Krispy] aims, its creators say, to "portray as accurately and sensitively as possible in music, words and dance, the build up to, and last known hours before, Professor Thrupiece's disappearance from a Swiss hotel room on that fateful night in April 2004* and the consequences that followed". Previewers have, not surprisingly, questioned the deployment of 12 jugglers, 8 strippers, a lion and four tigers, an inflatable talking banana, as well as a vertically-challenged contortionist and - in Act II - an "anything for the weekend" salesperson with a suitcase the size of a wardrobe. Sensitive? We suspect not.
[*Followers of the Professor's story will know that the year of his disappearance is often given - erroneously - as 2005, though it was his failure to deliver the Annual Association Lecture at his old college in Cambridge which first alerted many to his unavailability for future conferences and symposia. This is recorded in the College's archives as May 2004. Though not to be trusted with anything remotely related to educational matters, the College's record of its multiple failings is generally considered "up to scratch".]
Loosely based on the best-selling "Professor Brian Thrupiece: The Corporate Story" by Mrs Amanda J Threadbone [HERE] and incorporating flashbacks from well-documented episodes from his life in Cuba [HERE], Berlin [HERE] and Space [HERE], the musical - "a semi-pop, garage, hip-hop, acid-rock opera"], has been described by one critic as "execrable". Others have been kinder: theatre reviewer for the Purse Caundle Post, M T Seat has called it "a piss-poor crapfest".
Much of the critical ire has centred, thus far, on the so-called "abduction" scene at the end of Act I in which a group of men wearing "Blatter for President" sweat-shirts surprise the semi-naked Professor as he prepares for his pre-horizontal jogging ablutions, having carefully "penned a note" to his temporarily absent travelling companion Ms Shelley-Lulette Sizemore [the song "I've penned a note to Shelley-Lulette" is, to be fair, one of the only "melodies" in the show]. Whilst the latter action is broadly in keeping with the known facts, the involvement of pro-Blatter factions in "a kidnap that went wrong" is based on circumstantial evidence gathered by L'Autoritées Suisses, but never definitively linked to the case. A spokesperson for Commissaire Arsène Bèrglar [whose portrayal as a bald fat incompetent foreigner by former DJ Bald FatBoy Fat-Foreigner has also drawn criticism] said any scenes portraying an abduction needed to be treated with "une pincée de sel" and were at best "conjecturale". [According to the Swiss files on the case [L'Autoritées Suisses: Les Documents Thrupiece; Pending 2004-2019] the Professor's status remains, "missing, presumed disappeared" and any suggestion that he was the subject of a bungled abduction by an internationally [dis]reputable body is "spéculation inventée".
Having dealt with the "historical materials" in Act I, Acts II and III advance the action by 10 years and document the experience of a young woman staying in the same room. She is visited - and eventually seduced - by a phantom of the hideously disfigured Professor who now haunts his former lair in search of the life [and fluff] denied to him as a result of his earlier demise ["You and the night and the hoover"]. Acts II and III have been variously described as "fanciful", "silly", "ridiculous" and "moving". ["The scene in which a gondola rises from the bidet and transports the "lovers" to the all-day breakfast buffet ["I'll find some crispy bacon"] is as visually puzzling as it is musically ineffective", Up Sydling Sentinel.]
The Phantom of the Cornarvin opens at the Regency Theatre Bradpole on October 5th. Seats are available for all performances. This production of The Phantom of the Cornarvin is not authorised or licensed by the thrupieceorganisation or the Threadbone Corporation.