Play review: Dial L for Latch-Key by Scott Fivelson

the cover of the book

You'll wish you could see Dial L for Latch-Key in a theatre near you immediately after reading this little gem, because then you'd be sitting in a theatre laughing with other people, as opposed to snickering quietly to yourself alone.

The story

The year is 1954. Raymond has successfully framed his beautiful wife for murder, and is set to inherit millions after her execution is carried out. Only a wily old Inspector, and Raymond's wife's American lover Bob, can prevent Raymond from getting away scott free. Can the invocation of Alfred Hitchcock save the day, and the girl?

The style

I know a talented actor who graduated from one of the most prestigious acting schools in Australia, and he and I have had a long running argument because I hate reading plays and he hates reading novels. When he turned twenty one I bought him a copy of The Great Gatsby, and he grudgingly conceded that actually, some things are totally worth breaking your reading rules for. Which is exactly how I felt about Dial L for Latch-Key. It's unashamedly great.

Weighing in at a cheeky twenty-seven pages, Dial L for Latch-Key manages a lot with a little, so I'm about to start throwing around words like "pastiche" and "post-modern". Don't be afraid. Invoking and combining a little Poiroit, a little Le Carre, and of course, Hitchcock himself in a masterful play at referential post-modernity (or something like that), Dial L for Latch-Key is a glorious meld of familiar genres and styles with a tiny portion of absurdism thrown in. And it's FUNNY. Like, laugh out loud while reading funny, even though it's flat on paper and not being performed. Which is great.

I think the danger with using pastiche in a scenario like this is sometimes the writing can come across a bit cheesy, trite, self-concious and tired. Fivelson completely avoids this, which is not only a testament to his ability, but I think more importantly reflects the joy he takes in writing. Everything about this reading experience is enjoyable; and the reader feels complicit with Fivelson's in-jokes and referencing, which in turn makes us feel clever. The ridiculous can also be clever and fun if it's done right, and this is done right.

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I liked this play particularly because I grew up with the styles it references. , Le Carre, Hitchcock... so realistically, you could go backwards and read them.

In short

Title: Dial L for Latch-Key
Author: Scott Fivelson
Publisher: Hen House Press
ISBN: 978-0-9834604-0-4
Year published: 2010
Pages: 27
Genre(s): Play Script, Mystery, Detective, Satire