For fans of mystery fiction and TV crime dramas, one of the enduring pleasures is in trying to work out who the murderer is before they are revealed by the insightful and brilliant star detective. And even though we may be convinced we are right because of this clue or that motive, how often are we eventually proved wrong because we have overlooked an important piece of evidence? Or because the detective has not been asking the right questions? The beauty of the Murder Mystery event is that we get to follow our own instincts and do just that.
The Barrow Panto Group’s latest production, The Sound of Mu... rder, was written by Andy Hawkes and revolves around an amateur dramatics group and their rehearsals for The Sound of Music. The evening begins as soon as you enter the building – it turns out the hall has been double-booked and the audience is referred to as a victim support group – and so we are immediately drawn into the action. After this initial confusion has been put aside, the acting troupe gamely try and ignore the gatecrashers and carry on with their rehearsal.
Back on stage it is not long before buried skeletons and simmering jealousies are revealed amongst this group of so-called friends. As well as storing up all the possible motives for murder as it slowly dawns on us who the victim is most likely to be, we are also aware that we need to pick up on other potential clues – the heating is on the blink, all the characters are carrying water bottles, and what about the set designer’s toolbox with its array of hammers and chisels?
A scream is heard off stage and we soon find that the leading lady has been murdered, and her body has been found in the boiler room in the cellar. Moments later, Inspector Foot of The Yard enters and we are told to remain where we are as we may later be needed as witnesses.
As a tasty Ploughman’s supper is served, we are given some extra clues from the Inspector’s initial findings in the boiler room, and each team is invited to ask one question of one suspect – and they are all suspects; no one can be ruled out yet.
This is where the real fun starts. In my team of seven, there were at least four potential murderers from the first reading of the clues. Arguments for and against from all corners of the table narrowed down the list of suspects to two and then back up again to four. Or was it five? We were getting nowhere fast!
Each team then asked their questions in turn, often followed by sage nods of recognition or hoots of laughter from the audience as people realised they were either on the right track or way off. All the cast were brilliant during the questioning, improvising from their backstories with humour and enthusiasm.
During dessert, we were handed another set of clues in the form of the postmortem report, and given the chance to ask a secret question - one that would not be heard by the other teams. There was more laughter and cries of frustration as the Inspector read out the answers to these questions, which was often just a tight-lipped Yes or No. After a further round of open questions, it soon became clear from the bubbles of chatter around the hall which teams felt they had correctly homed in on the culprit.
Five teams correctly guessed the murderer, motive and method.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and everybody involved in the production from the producer and director to the people helping out in the hall deserved the huge round of applause they received at the end of the show.
Cast: Stephanie Spielberg - Jackie Johnstone; Sarah Snoop - Val Gillings; Aggie Alpert - Sharon Gudger; Eadie Ollersinshaw - Carol Kenneth; Julie Andrews - Ginnie Willcocks; Martha Superior - Vicki Wallin; Andrea Williams - Ceri Fairbrother; Inspector Foot - Craig Johnstone