So, to save everyone a bit of time let’s just cut to the chase and I’ll tell you who the murderer was; it was, of course… But fear not, I’m not that mean. Mind you, when I was about nine, we had a family outing to The Mousetrap and during the interval I was holding forth as to my selection of the killer’s identity, apparently much to the annoyance of fellow theatre goers who wondered who this precocious child was. Even more annoyingly, I was apparently right when I said it was.
And there we are again; nearly. I’m sure many people during a whodunnit have had that primal urge to shout out their theory to the whole auditorium. If you do fall into that category, then try your hand at one of the murder mysteries which are now a regular feature of online theatre going. Because in this instance you’ll be indulged totally, as part of the fun is sharing your suppositions with others in the online audience and filling in polls to point the finger of suspicion.
Under the general heading of Sherlock In Homes, this is the second show from Sharp Teeth/The Wardrobe Theatre where your powers of deduction will be pushed to the limit and you can have an immense amount of fun donning a theoretical deerstalker to chase down the villain. Last time round we were in Victorian times for Murder At the Circus; this time you need to wrap up very warm as we’re at an Antarctic expedition station in the 1920s.
Here the explorer Captain Albert Ross (say it quickly, in fact say all the character names quickly) has bitten the dust, or rather the snow. Strangled with a mysterious object by an even more mysterious assailant, the collective detective (i.e., the audience) have to sort the facts from the fiction by questioning the suspects about their movements, motives and machinations. Because, as it turns out there’s a rather heavy dose of suspected poisoning, adultery, theft, academic plagiarism, mysteries over parenthood and even a smidgin of animal cruelty also to be disentangled.
So, just who is responsible for the main event? Is it Ross’s new wealthy bride Bella de Balle (Lucy Harrington) who has already seen off two previous husbands who should have been more careful about what they ate? Or is it Doug Spoddy (Douglas Walker) the camp cook/odd job man with a roving eye? Maybe it’s one of the younger element such as studious Welsh zoologist Pen(elope) Gwynn (Alice Lamb), wimpy Norwegian cartographer GetjØr Berrings (Peter Baker) or enthusiastic Australian Scout Sonner (Eleanor Nawal) who seems to like her huskies more than her fellow camp mates. Of course, you may subscribe to conspiracy theories and assume more than one of them was in it together – presumably their main revenge motive was against whoever gave them such crazy names.
Participants are split into detective investigating groups and each team is given a few minutes to grill the suspects, consider all the angles and then grill them again in a second round. Remarkably, it always seemed to be a case of “time’s up” just as a big revelation was about to be made…. One might almost think it was planned that way by director Stephanie Kempson. Theories flew this way and that as the narrative unfolded; could the murder weapon be Bella’s string of pearls, one of Scout’s dog leashes or the suspicious looking rope hanging on Doug’s wall? These sorts of little details really showed that designer Zoe Brennan had been as integral a part of the team as much as the actors who revealed just enough nuggets of information to keep the whole plot twisting and turning. The cast treats us to some heavy duty accents and excel at the improvisational elements as the questions are as unpredictable as one might expect from such a diverse group of participants. Perhaps the groups were a little too large to give everyone an equal opportunity to have their voices heard, though, or maybe I just happened to be with a particularly enthusiastic bunch. The tech support provided by the unseen Taggart was, once again exemplary.
The most accessed review on this blog since lockdown began, and by some considerable margin, has been that for Murder At the Circus which has entertaining audiences for over six months now. So, I was pleased to see that number two in the series was right up to standard and terrific fun. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I thought Murder On Ice with its multitude of twists and turns was even more enjoyable than the previous show. But that may be simply because of the fact that this time round I got the murderer right and it was… nope, I learned my lesson about that when I was nine. Anyway, if you’re a whodunnit devotee and you like plenty of (frozen) red herring then you’ll love this.