Self-described as "a rip roaring Gothic farce", The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner is that interesting thing, an Edinburgh Festival show trying its luck in a West End transfer. The up side of such productions is that they're usually decent quality, well-rehearsed, cheap and short. The downside is that they're not always as good as they're cracked up to be. So does The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner live up to its hype?

Set in 1913, the premise is that James Faulkner (Josh Haberfield) is the last of a family line cursed when his great-great-grandfather murdered his great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Faulkner. He approaches undertaker Reginald Thorndike (Neil Henry) whose ancestor helped the killer bury his victim in unconsecrated ground, explaining that the only way they can break the curse and save their own lives is to dig her up again. So far so Gothic; but as the show unfolds, its frenetic pace, physical comedy and multiple locations make it more reminiscent of a budget The 39 Steps than anything. 

Despite occasionally courting cheap laughs with anachronistic swearing and extreme mugging at the audience, The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkne is certainly funny, and given its unusually late start time of 10pm, also pleasingly short (a whisker over an hour). Writer Tim Downie boasts impressive credentials including Peep Show and The King's Speech, and knows how to keep the slightly surreal plot cracking along and the one-liners firing, and director Anthony Coleridge's four-strong cast throw themselves into the show with gusto and talent. 

However, its shoestring Edinburgh roots sometimes show through. The black-box, setless staging is understandable and entirely appropriate given the frequent scene changes, but costume designer Charlie Gardner lets the side down on occasion. I could just about forgive his pairing Thorndike's black tailcoat with brown shoes, but dressing poor Miss Francis (Harriette Sym) in wedge sandals and socks instead of boots is an unforgivable (and very distracting) faux pas. In the absence of set or props to provide period context, costume is absolutely key, and Sym's versatile, winning performance in three very different roles should at least entitle her to proper footwear.  

The cast is universally strong, and the opening voiceover (uncredited but I suspect Haberfield's work) a great way to set the scene. Downie's writing is also polished and pacy right up until the slightly confusing and disappointing end. But it's Anil Desai, veteran of Goodness Gracious Me and many a stage comedy, who steals the show, against stiff competition. His lubricious, eccentric Uncle Mortimer and mysterious Peruvian lift every scene they are in, and play beautifully against the hapless flounderings of our cursed heroes. 

Essentially, The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner is a short, sharp, silly show which delivers what it promises; a lot of laughs, plenty of geese and an hour of post-pub fun. I'd love to give it four stars on this basis, but have to knock points off for the dodgy denouement and cheap staging. I'd love to see what Downie, Coleridge et al do after this, though: hopefully, their next production will have a bigger budget and they will really be able to create the slick, seamless comic tour-de-force that this strives — almost successfully — to be. 

The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner, at Charing Cross Theatre

The Edinburgh Fringe hit transfers to the West End. There are lots of late-night laughs in this Gothic farce — even if it is a bit rough around the edges. At the Charing Cross Theatre

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