Cluedo! The Interactive Game at Baedeker
Back by popular demand, Brisbane Immersive Ensemble’s award-winning immersive event, Cluedo! The Interactive Game returns to Fortitude Valley’s 1909 heritage gem, Baedeker Wine Bar this April and May. Join the lavish cocktail party turned murder mystery, set against the glamorous backdrop of 1930s high society, as the death of the host spurs an investigation through hidden passageways, grand ballrooms and into the secret lives of the party’s peculiar guests. The highly anticipated return season will see amateur sleuths traverse the rooms of Dr Black’s infamous house, in a theatrical re-imagining of the classic board game.
Sasha spoke with performer Xanthe Jones about the cultural icon that is Cluedo, and what we can expect from this interactive murder mystery. Read the full interview below:
The original board game Cluedo is such a cultural icon, that has multiple spin-offs within the series but also inspired the movie Clue. How did you come to the idea of creating Cluedo as a theatrical experience?
We had the idea to transform the Cluedo board game into a theatre show back in 2017, when we didn't have many options to choose from. We couldn't afford theatre hire or official rights to a play, but as we know, necessity is the mother of invention, so we got creative. We knew we wanted to venture into immersive theatre, because of my experience with roving performance, festivals and improvisation, and my partner Ben's penchant for game play, game design and world creation. I wanted to do Cluedo because I love the era of the 1930s, the tropes of the murder mystery, the location of a big mysterious house, and the ability to write brand new stories for a group of already well-known characters. The original game technique translated remarkably well into a live production, and the rest is history.
Cluedo! The Interactive Game incorporates many other production elements to create an immersive show, for example live music and catering. Could you please tell us what it’s like to work with other creatives that audiences wouldn’t usually associate with the theatre?
I love creating a whole world by using elements of music, food, dancing, artwork and language. Putting all of these elements together is no small feat, but each department works extremely well together, navigating the music in between the scenes in between the food and so on.
The stage management team (yes a whole team) keeps all the cogs turning during the show, and the audiences always rise to the occasion. From the perspective of the musicians and the catering teams, I've been told that it is very exciting to be part of creating the world. For example, our saxophonist catches a fainting woman, our pianist underscores a rousing speech and halts at a dramatic turn, our drummer plays the spoons in a ditty about ancient Egypt and our venue manager serves wine from a deceased man's vineyard. Our jazz singers also play a part in the immersion and have secrets to share about the characters and the enigmatic host himself. The use of different elements attracts a diverse crowd and they find that there is something for everyone. Even if playing the interactive game is not for some people, the curated wine list and the beautiful costumes and music will keep the crowd thoroughly entertained until the ultimate reveal at the finale!
The audience is heavily involved in this show and become characters themselves to solve the murder mystery. How do the cast and crew prepare for a show that changes from night to night? Do you have any stories of audience participation that are particularly memorable?
The cast and crew undertake intense training in character development, improvisation and interrogations so that they are fully prepared for any and all questions the audience could throw at them. These actors are uncrackable in their characters, and they also serve to help enrol the audience by floating suggestions for their own potential backstory. For example, Miss Scarlett has claimed to have known guests from their endeavours with the railway or past social scandals. Dr Black greets old war buddies and eccentric travellers, sharing some of his tales with the guests, and encouraging them to create their own. Once Madame Peacock gave a gentleman suitor a kiss, and Reverend Green recited some inaccurate Biblical verses to get out of a sticky social situation. The interaction goes as far as the guests are willing to take it, and so the audience will get out of it what they put in.
Murder mysteries have been a staple of the entertainment industry for years ranging from the traditional like Agatha Christie to modern cop shows like NCIS. What do you think is the appeal for audiences?
Crime stories are always interesting for an audience because of the mystery, suspense, intricately created character motivations and of course - the iconic plot twist. I love the era of film noir, Agatha Christie novels and binging a sneaky season of Criminal Minds, but the appeal for me was definitely in creating a group of larger than life characters each with their own vices, motivations to kill, but with redemptive qualities that make the audience want to believe they could be innocent. By combining all the classic murder mystery tropes with modern commentary on feminism, racial division, privilege, identity and classism, I can give audiences a classic mystery with painfully real characters whose reasons for murder seem almost justified. This is the classic murder mystery for a new age where to audiences, the characters are as real as they are. They interact with them, feel their emotions and ask themselves; how far would I be willing to go?
In your wildest dreams what other board game would you like devised as a live theatre experience? What kind of hilarity would it entail?
I would love to tell you, but it is still a secret at the moment. I can tell you that it is all the things I love - spooky, campy, interactive, has a great soundtrack and uses daring stunts to really make the audience scream. But that is all I can say for now...
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Velvet the show with Marcia Hines!
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Dream show to perform in or direct/create?
The Wild Party
Plays or musicals?
Plays. Not because I don't love the use of story-telling through song and dance, but because I feel story-telling takes a back seat in a lot of popular musicals.
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
I used to do quite a lot of burlesque dancing, but working full time in theatre means I'm on an indefinite hiatus. I still like to pull out some moves on the dance floor though!
What’s next for you after this show?
I'll be going back to my first love - festivals. I absolutely adore the atmosphere and excitement of a festival and the way the actors and audience interact, which is why I strive to bring that energy to Cluedo! and all of our Brisbane Immersive Productions.
Cluedo! The Interactive Game opens at Baedeker bar on April 17, 2019. You can get your tickets here.