Solve Along A Murder She Wrote
New Farm Cinemas
Like many, I imagine, it’s been a long time since I have seen “Murder She Wrote” and I can’t even remember if I would have even watched an entire episode of the iconic American TV. This makes little difference to experience of “Solve Along A Murder She Wrote” except for not being able to enact the practiced smug-face when others realise the show’s outcome. As its name suggests, the theatre experience involves watching an entire episode of “Murder She Wrote” (1985’s ‘Broadway Malady’) interactively as audience members try to solve it together, with guidance from Brisbane ex-pat, award-winning playwright and show super-fan Tim Benzie.
From the moment we all wave back to Cabot Cove’s amateur sleuth JB Fletcher in the show’s opening credits, we are absorbed in a joyous sense of 1980s nostalgia, not just due to the big hair, blue eye-shadow and leg warmers but also the of-era tv ads that Benzie has added as a commercial break, especially those that include indication of product’s genuine 1985 prices.
We begin with collective development of the fame-ometer, ranking the episode’s guest stars, which allows opportunity to segue to tid-bits of obscure information and well-chosen, highly-funny clips about their respective other works. Later, the fame-ometer becomes the suspicio-meter, as we respond to realisation of clues within the story, which allows the audience to make the experience their own, evidenced in the Australian premiere by Brisbane’s embrace of the character of Barry and acknowledgement of his every appearance and reference. It makes for some infectious fun that could easily get out of hand, however, host Tim Benzie, in costume as Jessica Fletcher (played in the series’ 264 episodes by film and Broadway star Angela Lansbury), does well to keep things on track which maintains the merriment. And with our goody bag of props for use at determined times during the screening, we can’t help but have a great time.
The night of games, prizes, audience participation and even an audience singalong to the credits, if the theme song had lyrics, is just as fun as its promise and it is easy to appreciate why the celebration of the tv show itself and its genre and era in general, has been such a smash hit in London. Its shenanigans may be unexpected by the enigmatic promise of its premise but they are very entertaining in the most light-hearted way, ensuring that audience members leave with longing to have the unique and thoroughly enjoyable theatre experience revisit our city again soon.