Arts at the Old Fire Station, Wed 1st May 2019
I’ve never been very good at Cluedo. I partly blame that on the premise – as if a man of the cloth such as Reverend Green could commit such a gruesome act, and what self-respecting owner of a manor house leaves lead piping lying around the ballroom when entertaining? Mainly though, I realised early on that while I love a good whodunnit, I’m less Hercule Poirot and more Inspector Clouseau. But imagine trying to play the classic game on a Monopoly board instead, without all the pieces, and with barely any idea of the rules. Surely the result would be absolute chaos?
That’s much like the concept behind The Dead Secrets’ Hickory Dickory Murder – an improv murder mystery show where even the cast members don’t know what plot twists may lie ahead. We all set off together on a journey to discover who was in the library with the revolver (or on this occasion in the Valley of the Kings with the poisoned darts).
The joy of improv is witnessing the little grey cells whirring in the actors’ minds as wild suggestions are hurled at them from the audience and are then somehow woven into a story arc with multiple characters, intrigue, drama and of course a lot of laughs along the way. The crowd at the Old Fire Station were hardly in a forgiving mood with some of the details offered to the cast to work with, including a string of extravagant suspects such as a travelling sand salesman, a snake-charming medium, a fearless explorer and a bridge-playing tomb raider. All are drawn to the desert for different reasons but united by murder!
In true Agatha Christie fashion, our cunning killer hides among them and it is down to our host and narrator, Mr D Tective, to follow the clues and track down the culprit of the murder most foul. The ensuing hour-and-a-half is a riotous journey with absolutely no map or compass, with genuinely eye-wateringly funny results.
We were treated to an eerie pet seance, the steamiest sauna scene seen this side of Sweden, and a strangely poignant moment between a poison emporium owner and a rather lost chinchilla.
You’d imagine with such challenges thrown at them, the Dead Secrets would try to help each other out, but instead great delight is had in seemingly stitching the others up as much as possible, daring them to break character and succumb to the giggles cracking through their faltering straight faces as the absurdity increases just as quickly as the body count. This only adds to the enjoyment as every stumble is mercilessly mocked by their quick-witted companions or used to add more mayhem to the proceedings.
The fact so many of the highly satisfied audience had watched Hickory Dickory Murder before (several times) demonstrated not only how much fun the night is but also how the Dead Secrets are able to come up with something uniquely brilliant every time.
Hickory Dickory Murder is on monthly at The Old Fire Station, George Street, Oxford.