‘Done to Death’ was eccentric.
Friendships were forged, martinis drunk and murders committed at Sunnybank Theatre Company’s latest comedic mystery, ‘Done to Death’. Audiences were treated to some of murder mystery’s most prolific and perhaps outdated writers as they attempted to meld minds and create the next best seller. But, as every person in the arts knows, creative minds tend to clash instead of harmonise. Good theatre doesn’t exist without a little drama, and the five diverse minds on stage certainly created a hilarious cacophony as they fought, meddled and concurrently solved a murder.
Directors Deirdre Robinson and John Mordacz did a splendid job of transforming the small stage into a winding mansion with all the action taking place in an eerie living room. The static set, designed by Mark Westby, was the perfect location for a murder with the quintessential spine-chilling portrait, dead phone line, dusty books and peeling walls. The stage was slightly cramped when all five authors filled the space and, because of this, some interactions and blocking felt slightly inorganic. However, the chemistry and teamwork between all actors brought the script by Fred Carmichael to life.
Carmichael’s work covered almost every end of the archetypal spectrum. Included in the production was an affluent, martini drinking couple, a bumbling old man, a sweet grandma, an ambitious young author, an awkward show host, a creepy butler and an innocent young maid. Amongst these were a range of supporting characters who portrayed the larger than life eccentrics the novelists’ created in their stories.
Highlight performances were delivered by the always sophisticated Jessica and Whitney Olive (Carolyn Mills and Chris O’Leary). The characters in ‘Done to Death’ could easily have been overacted due to their eccentric qualities, however, the accomplished Olives were consistent and believable. They truly embodied their characters and helped to ground the production. All other actors had moments of hilarity, especially Rodney Duckton (Greg Johnson) who left the audience in stitches with his untamed personality. Sunnybank Theatre clearly have a wide range of comedic talent and ‘Done to Death’ was an excellent choice for these actors to be highlighted
Act one captivated audiences with interesting characters, effective pace and a spectacular lighting plot (by Joanne Sephton) which allowed each scene to flow naturally. As each writer told the group their plot ideas, a raised section of the stage was illuminated, which directed audience attention and formed a stage within a stage. Each writer had their own distinct style and lighting design which parodied the classic mystery novels.
As the play progressed, the narrative slipped a little too far into the classic murder mystery. While the play continued in its parody style, the interesting concept of having a live studio audience and writers constructing a new narrative disappeared in Act 2. This section introduced the butler and maid who formed a dynamic duo. However, they didn’t quite match the comedic timing and pace of the rest of the cast.
The writers were slowly killed off one by one and the remaining members attempted to figure out who had committed the murders. The drop in pace could be largely attributed to the script however may have been slightly lifted by a sharper delivery.
‘Done to Death’ provided the perfect backdrop for audiences to reminisce on the general hilarity and suspense of murder mystery novels both past and present. With talented actors, a beautiful set, stunning lighting, and enough martinis to go around, ‘Done to Death’ was a night of pure entertainment.
Catch ‘Done to Death’ at Sunnybank theatre until May 11 2019. For more information and ticketing to go http://www.stg.org.au.