A run-down detective and a potential serial killer. This set up has fuelled drama to the point of exhaustion. These mystery stories easily slot into the world of noir thrillers that plunge us into the darker sides of humanity. It is however rare for a theatre piece to take this mainly cinematic form, with only rare instances acting as examples. Playing at the White Bear Theatre, John Foster’s Chummy attempts to correct this imbalance. While ambitious and ultimately functional, the piece results in rather a mixed bag.

We listen to a trio of actors in a series of cross-cut monologues. The premise is a relatively familiar one: we follow Jackie Streaker, an ex-cop turned Private Investigator. Her drinking days are broken up with a call from Chummy, a voice on the end of the phone claiming to have “the need to kill”. Their relationship develops after she is paid to talk to him, to keep him sane, all the while struggling to hold onto her own mental health. For this concept to succeed, Foster must bring something entirely new to the genre.

The first aspect to comment on is the relatively clear performances from each of the cast. Megan Pemberton lends Jackie an acerbic likeability that is engaging to watch, albeit without much emotional depth. She is complimented in opposition by Calum Speed, whose Chummy mostly manages to avoid the clichés of the maniac killer. Jessica Tomlinson fulfils a variety of roles in the show, and gives each a distinctive personality despite not all of her moments on stage feeling entirely necessary. It is a shame that with all three some intonations on lines end up feeling rather the same as the piece lingers on, not helped by a script that gradually begins to crawl around in rather a lot of circles.

Indeed, John Foster’s play tangles itself among a fog of similes and inaction. While monologues are crisply crosscut and nicely structured, the words themselves are buried in unimaginative language. Vast descriptions detailing the inner thoughts of each character take priority while driving plot points are disregarded. The partnership between detective and murderer becomes reduced to a series of cliched wonderings of the other’s whereabouts, a theme that repeats so often it grows audibly frustrating among the audience.

There are some nice moments in Alice Kornitzer’s production, functional and efficient with a satisfying fluency between scenes. The White Bear Theatre space is used well, and the one shame is that the form of direct address is not properly utilised in such an intimate environment. Michael Leopold’s sleek design adds a convincing detail to the flat, bathed all the while by Owen Pritchard Smith’s complimentary neon glow. It is these touches that display a real example of a show that could have been.

Moments of promise fail to build to a fully pulse pounding thriller. Some competent performances and a lovely design are weighed down by a flabby script. It is also worth mentioning some troubling intimations surrounding mental health begin to seep in as we reach the end of the show. If noir is set to have a future on the stage, it will not be due to this production.

Chummy is playing The White Bear Theatre until 10 June.