This year’s Trinity Arts Festival saw some serious cultural heavyweights grace our University cobbles. On Wednesday night, the great Pablo Picasso hosted a lavish exhibition of his work at the Players’ Theatre. A veritable Who’s Who of international artistry was in attendance to pay tribute to the Spanish master, from Marina Abramovic to Banksy to (ahem) Kerry Katona. Stepping out onto the balcony before his adoring, rain-spattered fanbase, Pablo proceeded to introduce his guests one by one, before announcing that he had a very special secret of his own to reveal. Then, as expected, he died. Poisoning apparently.
Thus began DU Players’ Murder Mystery Night: a campus-wide hunt for Picasso’s killer. As the night progressed, intrigues and scandals involving blackmail, electoral double-dealings, ketamine-packed goody-bags and Kim Kardashian’s baby all bubbled to the surface. Almost 200 students were on hand to help crack the case, inspired by the coveted prize of two Trinity Ball tickets for the team to catch the culprit.
DU Players has hosted murder mysteries in the past but never on quite this scale. By scattering suspects and clues across Front Square and New Square, the task became less an exercise for “the little grey cells” than a frantic scavenger hunt, with teams of two scrambling through the rain to be the first to hear the latest scrap of new evidence. The openness of the production also helped it to feel like more of a College-wide adventure than a closed shop affair for Players stalwarts, something which was furthered by the involvement of the Trinity TV and Trinity FM societies.
I, along with other members of TTV, was on hand as a “news reporter” to help disperse nuggets of new evidence to the contestants. While this means that, as far as the nitty gritty of investigation goes, I can’t really comment, I certainly observed that a huge number of the contestants really got into the spirit of things, even to the point of emphatically denouncing me as the killer. My protestations to the contrary only heightened their certainty, alas.
The actors were consistently excellent, with some hilarious performances from, among others, Heather Walsh’s party animal Tracy Emin, Andrew Oakes’ grief-stricken Salvador Dali and Jack Toner’s Kanye West, and all managed to maintain the comic energy of their characters throughout what must have been an exhausting two hours in far from ideal weather conditions.
A few participants I spoke to felt things went on a bit too long and as the rain thickened, some of the more baffled detectives began to lose their zest for the chase. Still, there were some wonderful set pieces, such as Dali’s vengeful march across front square demanding retribution for the murder of Maud, his pet ferret. These delightful segments of soap-opera popped up at just the right points to save the pursuit from descending into aimlessness and apathy. Overall, this was a night of nonsensical fun, complemented by some hysterically talented improvisational performances and a well-structured, if preposterous, script.
Players and TAF are to be congratulated on delivering a fun, immersive and bonkers night of amateur sleuthing. Van Gogh for Ents!