The Unfriend at the Criterion Theatre review - Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat give us a riotous bit of fun

What a hoot. Amanda Abbington, Reece Shearsmith and Frances Barber excel in this uproarious, if somewhat contrived, comedy of English embarrassment by former Doctor Who and

Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat. The story of a couple too polite and uptight to ask a suspected killer to leave their home, it has the meticulous bourgeois manners and

spiraling hysteria of a darker Alan Ayckbourn play. Abbington and Shearsmith are Peter and Debbie, befriended on a cruise by Barber’s voluptuously eccentric,

Trump-supporting Elsa Jean Krakowski. Think kaftan-clad Jennifer Coolidge in The White Lotus but with more gleeful calculation, and you’re there. Shortly before Elsa

inveigles herself into their London home, Debbie discovers she is the subject of a crime podcast and suspected of murdering her father, her first husband and at least four others

with poison. Improbable, yes: but apparently something similar really happened to friends of Moffat’s, except it was only three alleged murders and the woman got off on a

technicality. What follows is a relentlessly snowballing orgy of cringe and discomfiture. Elsa’s arrival initially gives Peter and Debbie’s stroppy teenage son and daughter

(Gabriel Howell and Maddie Holliday, mining gold from slight roles) one more reason to hate their parents. Then she begins to work a kind of unifying magic on the family – “she’s

Murder Poppins” as Debbie puts it – which is almost worse.