‘Amdram Is Murder’ was killer.
Auditions, callbacks, casting, rehearsals, tech, performance and repeat. This is the cycle professional, independent and community theatre organisations go through day in and day out, providing audiences with the chance to become wholly immersed in the narrative of theatre. However, audiences are generally none the wiser to the late nights, tears, bruises, cast love affairs and mandatory stress that feeds into the final production. ‘Amdram is Murder’ at Mousetrap Theatre provided audiences with some insight into what transpires when your workmates clock off for the day and leave for rehearsals.
Stress mounted, relationships were fractured, and things within the community theatre organisation, Amdram, turned murderous. The real-life audience of Mousetrap’s production was given the task of figuring out which of the four suspects were guilty of killing their friend, and cast member, in a hilarious whodunit.
Mousetrap Theatre are well known for their murder mystery productions which never fail to attract a supportive crowd. For a matinee performance, the audience was filled with members who understood the hilarity borne from being involved in community theatre productions. Jokes landed and the audience clearly enjoyed the jabs, fond memories and stressful recollections that surfaced during the play.
As with every murder mystery, there were a number of archetypal suspects who each had a motive for killing the overly enthusiastic Fiona. There was the young cynic, Jenny, who hated men, the widowed eccentric, Shelagh, who couldn’t remember her blocking and the harsh director, Cathy, who was involved in a torrid love affair with the wedded Derek. Each had both motive and opportunity to kill Fiona and it was in the audience’s hands to reach a guilty verdict.
‘Amdram is Murder’ was a splendid choice for the intimate space at Mousetrap Theatre. Directors, Karen Chrisl and Susan Harding-Smith, utilised the entire theatre and were largely successful in immersing their audience into a rehearsal turned sour. As the actors’ rehearsed their scenes, they heightened the melodramatics and created physical comedy with the set and costuming made available to them.
Karen Christl’s feather boa antics were particularly hilarious and well-timed. These moments were integrated and intrinsic to Christl’s effusive character and kept the comedic pace moving along. Fay Richards as Shelagh was likewise intelligent in her movement and presentation, creating subtle moments that translated perfectly to the audience.
While the production was written to satirise the overacting tendencies of community theatre, this comedy may have translated more effectively if the contrast between the ‘scenes’ and the real-life moments was more nuanced. Cast tended to ‘act’ as their character and carry the exaggerated style into the realism scenes.
Blocking which was less geared towards the audience may have assisted the cast in settling into their dialogue more effectively. In this type of production, it isn’t necessary to maintain a 45-degree angle with your performance partner or to walk downstage to deliver a monologue. It would have been nice to see the impact of employing slightly more natural blocking, allowing the audience to peek into the action but also cement the idea that they weren’t present during personal conversations.
Once murders were committed, motives identified, clues are given and suspects lined up, the audience was able to question the eccentric characters on stage. The repartee between audience members and the cast was skillfully executed. There were no dead spaces and the cast was able to improvise and offer well-considered and comedic moments.
Despite the moments which weren’t entirely utilised to the best of their ability, ‘Amdram is Murder’ was entertaining from beginning to end. The audience supported the cast wholeheartedly and the energy in the room encouraged fun and laughter.
Murder mysteries make for a new experience at the theatre where audience members are able to take a step up from passive onlooker. The cast, crew and creative team of ‘Amdram is Murder’ should be commended for creating an entertaining theatrical experience which allowed audiences to become enmeshed in the drama on stage.
‘Amdram is Murder’ plays until Sunday, 11 August 2019. For ticketing and additional information visit Mousetrap Theatre’s Website.