Magic hour and a bit

17 April 2019

Joseph Winer gives us a tour of Magic Hour: The Murder Mystery Disco!

A murder has taken place at the infamous Club de Pompidou. For this show, we will take on the role of the detective to help solve this crime. We’ll need to work together to gather as much information as possible. My group is guided through the show by two detectives (and lovers in a dispassionate romance) Chief Inspector Gurnings and Alan Totters, played with absolute commitment by Kat Forbes and Abigail Greenwood. Their improv is sharp, and they build a rapport with the audience that makes us feel really immersed. As we move through the different areas, we’re introduced to each of the potential suspects and offered the chance to ask them questions ourselves.

The setup to the show is really intriguing. We’re in a club and the bar is open. The characters are roaming around the space and the drama has very much began. It sort of feels like we’ve been thrown into a cartoon, with the actors dressed in absurd wigs and outfits. Tufts of hair have been scribbled on to chests and faces with what looks like crayon. Eyebrows have been defined or exaggerated. Glitter has been generously applied. The space is queered with cross-gendered casting.

The scope and ambition is highly commendable. There are more than twenty characters, each and every one clearly defined by the script. Whilst we’re focused on a particular scene, we can look around to see everyone else still playing their respective parts. The Q&A sessions test each actor's knowledge of the show as a whole, and clearly huge amounts of work and detail have gone into fleshing out the world of the show, the back-stories, and character relationships.

One of the struggles with this type of show is that it relies heavily on audience engagement – a quiet audience left us with a few awkward silences. Forbes and Greenwood did a good job to fill in the gaps. We’re told at the beginning to explore each of the spaces to help find clues, but quite a few of these are completely missed in my detective group and the characters have to quickly fill us in on the information we’ve failed to find before we move onto the next space.

That being said, this is a highly ambitious project and is incredibly successful in much of its execution. The opening sets up such a high threshold for expectations and it’s really tricky to maintain this buzz for the full two hours. Each section could do with some tightening on the interactions. It runs the risk of becoming a little repetitive and I want something to happen to shake up the format a little bit.

It also has the issue of being a club-performance for an audience that’s not committed to the club night. The atmosphere is sober. Many of us are carrying backpacks and it feels sometimes more like a walking tour than a club night. This is by no means the fault of the company, but I wonder how an experience like a club-performance is affected by the structure of NSDF itself.


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Photo credit: Beatrice Debney