The Kneebone Cadillac review – anarchy at the demolition derby

The bequests and effects of the dead are reliably dramatic. Jed Kneebone, late patriarch of a Cornish scrap and haulage yard, seeds posthumous farcical intrigue by giving the eponymous 1956 car to his daughter, along with a diary that may reveal her true paternity. There are also rumours, believed by the dead man’s two sons, of a Kneebone gold trove in Arizona.

The curious family name (we never discover whether they are connected to the Thighbones) nods to writer Carl Grose’s background with the company Kneehigh, specialists in puppet-disrupted classics. But this piece, with Maddy entering her inherited vehicle in a demolition derby while her siblings fend off Mancunian drug barons they have witlessly offended, has the feel of an episode of Wacky Races scripted by Martin McDonagh.

‘Bob Bailey’s set drew awed expletives from the audience’ … The Kneebone Cadillac at Theatre Royal Plymouth. Photograph: Nobby Clark

Bob Bailey’s set – a vast, jagged pile of rusted and dented dead cars – drew awed expletives from the entering audience. Simon Stokes, in the last production of an impressive artistic directorship that has championed new writing, keeps the 95 minutes slick. Grose’s script sometimes oddly flirts with verse – dead Jed is a daddy who has left his caddy to Maddy – but achieves the difficult double of tight plotting and anarchic tone. Hannah Traylen is a charismatic Maddy, and Glyn Pritchard nicely differentiates several older men who shape her destiny.

The fact that the current heir to the throne holds the title of Duke of Cornwall yields a mere subplot here, but suggests a premise for a future Grose play as enjoyable as this one but more topically provocative.

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