Review By Hannah Fredriksson
There are certain words that catch the eye when flicking through the Fringe Festival program; one of them is ‘interactive’ and the other is ‘murder mystery’ – a title that includes both is simply impossible to resist, proven by tonight's sold-out performance of Showstopper: An Interactive Murder Mystery.
The atmosphere was electric in the Main Room at Connections, the audience buzzing with uncertainty and expectancy. Whenever a show is bold enough to include ‘interactive’ in the title, it raises the stakes by inviting the audience to participate rather than just sit back and observe a well-rehearsed show. Nobody was exactly sure what we were in for, but it would certainly be interesting.
The performance started as many do with a voice-over providing house rules; turn your phones on silent but feel free to take pictures, as anything could be a clue and nothing is as it seems.
The whole venue was a stage; the audience members quickly turned in their seats to follow dialogue as it occurred in various areas around the room – at the bar, on the stage, to the rear of the building. Being surrounded by the action on all sides made for an incredibly immersive experience.
We witnessed several moments of conflict between the cast posing as staff of the venue; a barman, a manager, a janitor, a seamstress, and three performers, setting up a number of potential suspects with means and motive to commit the heinous crime.
Then the ‘show within a show’ began, with another voice over telling us this time that flash photography is not allowed, and we watched some dancers perform as though we were there specifically to see them all along.
And then tragedy struck as one of the cast members was murdered – a bit vague I know, I would love to provide more detail but at the same time I don’t want to reveal too much!
The room became a bit chaotic as the rest of the cast moved quickly to surround the body, and then suddenly it was announced that nobody was leaving the room until the murder was solved. At this point the audience was broken up into five groups that would take turns interrogating the suspects and inspecting various parts of the crime scene. Each group was accompanied by an additional cast member dressed entirely in black that acted as a guide, stepping in to keep the interrogation flowing if the audience members' questions ran dry.
At one station, a few members of our group were invited to inspect the backstage area where the ‘performers’ had gotten ready prior to ‘the show’. This was another wonderfully engaging aspect of the performance to utilise every area of Connections to support the illusion of the immersive scenario.
Once the interrogations were complete, the audience was invited to return to their seats for the final reveal.
It occurred very quickly, and while it was explained in a general sense, they did not point out all the pivotal clues that gave the murderer away, and how the many red herrings actually fit into the story.
After the show I checked in with my friends that had been delegated to different groups to compare our findings from the interrogations. There were some things that one group discovered that the others did not, proving just how unique this experience was for each of us.
Looking back at years of Fringe experiences, I know Showstopper: An Interactive Murder Mystery is one I will remember for a very long time.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.