Brian Beacom

IS MURDER funny? It can be when performed straight and dark, as in Ealing Comedies of old.

This week, Oran Mor’s basement theatre provides the setting for a new modern-day killer comedy, Disturbed.

And it hopes to layer on the black humour.

Ian Cowell’s play features George Drennan and Anne Lacey as sexagenarian couple Peter and Rose, who lead a very ordinary tea-and-custard-creams life.

But it seems the pair like to add a little spice to their rather humdrum existence.

And so they murder their lodgers.

However, this cosy, happy homicidal world is challenged one day when an enigmatic young man comes to live with them.

Soon he has the killer couple “weak at the knees.”

But who is he? What does he want? And will he escape the fate so many lodgers have suffered before him?

Matthew Tomlinson plays The Lodger in this his first Oran Mor appearance.

“Disturbed is very funny because we love the darkness when it’s contrasted with the very ordinary,” says the actor, smiling.

“The couple are perfectly normal, they have proper manners and they love tea, but then they just happen to murder lodgers.”

Why? Did a lodger once leave crumbs on the bedsheets?

Did he put the cat in the tumble dryer by mistake?

“There is no explanation,” he says, grinning, “but I sort of like that because you can use your imagination to work out why.”

Matthew adds; “The couple actually like to have lodgers, yet at the same time they feel they have to kill them. And when they do they think ‘That’s a shame’.

“And it’s this jarring of thoughts that lends to the comedy.”

Matthew is a graduate of the Conservatoire. But the 26 year-old from Montrose didn’t go straight to drama college from school.

“I loved the idea of becoming a performer,” he recalls.

“I was a classical singer from the age of eight and then at thirteen my music teacher suggested I audition for a major production of Les Mis, which was successful.

“I loved playing Marius. And from there I became involved in am-dram.”

Yet, even though he’d enjoyed plaudits for his Les Mis appearance and had revealed real talent, on leaving school Matthew wasn’t banging at the doors of drama colleges.

“I was a bit scared,” he admits.

“None of my family had ever moved away so I played safe and worked as a dental technician for four years.

“I guess it was about security, and not feeling ready to leave home.”

Matthew adds; “During that time, I studied to be a primary teacher, but my heart just wasn’t in it.

“But my girlfriend, whom I’ve been with for nine years, realised this and encouraged me to audition for RCS in 2012.”

Matthew, who plays piano, drums, guitar and alto sax, was accepted to study Musical Theatre.

“My parents had made me take piano lessons when I was a boy but now I’m so glad they did. These days so many theatre companies ask for actors who can play instruments.”

Yet, despite a musical leaning, straight acting is certainly not ruled out.

“At times I think I may be more suited to musicals, but you can’t think that way.

“And I really want to do both. Plus, I’ve been trained as an actor who sings.”

Edinburgh-based Matthew has a role in upcoming movie Moondogs.

In recent times he has appeared in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the Lyceum.

And he has also featured in a touring production of Footloose alongside Maureen Nolan.

At the end of the year he’s set to play Aladdin in Kirkcaldy.

Clearly, the actor isn’t looking back at the world of dentistry with regretful eyes?

“Actually, it was quite a fun job,” he says, grinning.

“Except when someone would take a denture right out of their mouth and hand it to you.”

• Disturbed, Oran Mor, until Saturday.