Couldn't be better

18 April 2019

It's hilarious – don't ask questions, says Grace Patrick

The thing is that I don’t even want to try to be analytical about this show, because that’s just so far from the point.

Magic Hour: The Murder Mystery Disco! depends so heavily on us, their audience, being willing to just accept it. We spend our whole lives analysing the things we watch, don’t we? Making up conspiracy theories and trying to figure out the end of the season one episode in. It’s no bad thing, but it’s definitely a defining trait of how we collectively tend to consume media. We theorise and we guess and we second guess everything, but that’s not always really the point. For this show, guessing is obviously the whole point in one way, because there’s a crime that needs to be solved, and we need to solve it. Of course. Naturally.

That said, picking it apart outside of the story feels absolutely counterintuitive, and also more than a little useless. As far as I’m aware, there’s no bigger meaning. There’s nothing to find.

Immersive or even interactive shows always amaze me. It must take such incredible skill to keep the story even vaguely on track while contending with a room of uninitiated audience members who could say literally anything at literally any time, with none of the usual unspoken rules or etiquette to protect the actors. However, this enormous cast seemed particularly good at it: ridiculous though it absolutely and undoubtedly is, it’s also stupidly complicated. It’s one of those shows where the end result is more or less absurd, but it really didn’t come out of thin air. There’s evidence of layers and layers of ideas and effort, all of which shine through in the final product.

All the way though, Magic Hour... felt like a testimony to the fact that you really don’t need a lot of money or materials to make some extremely impressive theatre. Even though everything was quite patched together, that felt so much more appropriate than trying to make it all smooth and ‘perfect’. Its rough edges were honestly half of what made it so funny. Why does the rat have to be Like That? Because it’s hilarious. Don’t ask so many questions.

This same logic (or lack thereof) threads all the way through the piece. There’s so much chaos that it becomes normal, and then somehow becomes rational. It’s like it builds its own internal set of rules, both for us and for the characters. This is a world that looks kind of vaguely like ours, but only until you look a bit harder. In some ways, there’s an element of very traditional or stereotypical stories and storytelling. The cast of increasingly ludicrous characters also manage to fulfill more or less every stereotype that I can even think of, but the entire piece is so self-aware that it’s quite clearly a conscious choice.

Quick Duck Theatre aren’t just telling a story, they’re constructing an entire world and inviting us to take a step into it. It’s an enormous undertaking, but I can hardly see how it could be done better.

@noffmag / [email protected]

Photo credit: Beatrice Debney