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Clues: Murder Mystery Served Up During Restaurant Week

Clues, written by Laveda Thompson and produced by Peculiar People

Murder, it seems, makes a good digestif. At least this was the idea behind, Clues which made a new addition to the Restaurant Week 2013 menu. Clues, produced by Peculiar People, was a variant of the dinner theatre experience where decent fare was served up by Pantry Caterers Limited followed by Laveda Thompson’s Clues. hough it was a welcome addition to the Restaurant Week menue, Clues was a little undercooked.

Clues is a one-act play that follows the route of the traditional murder mystery premise. Five strangers arrive at an abandoned guest house sheltering from a storm that has left them all stranded. When they arrive there, they discover a letter, which  names and implicates them in a murder. They must uncover the killer and/or confess to their role in the crime before the storm brings the house down around them.
Makeda Solomon and Jerry Benzwick delivered solid performances
Clues is Thompson’s first play and she still has much to learn about plot development and characterization. While she sticks well to the genre, the plot more curdles than thickens and there are holes large enough for the characters to fall through (and after her third shriek one does wish that Storm would fall in one).

Where Thompson stumbles is in defining the characters as well as the play’s geographical and spacial location. Clues, obviously takes place in an abandoned house, but it isn’t evident where this house is located. Also elements of the stage properties like the landline phone, as well as terms like ‘overseer’ suggest it happened long ago, yet characters, or at least one of them, has a cell phone.

The play, directed by Peter Abrikian has more to be lauded for its intentions than for its execution. Its strongest moment comes in the opening with Robin Baston’s striking lightning and thunder effects. From there on the production was largely unremarkable even though it held a few amusing moments.
L-r) Makeda Solomon, Rushae Watson and Stephanie Hazle
The play features an ensemble cast comprising Oliver Mair as Patrick, Makeda Solomon as Cheryl, Jerry Benzwick (Neville), Stephanie Hazle (Storm) and Rushae Watson (Elizabeth).

With the exception of Makeda Solomon’s portrayal of Cheryl, the characterizations were generally as stranded as the characters themselves. Solomon delivered well as the devoted wife and mother, with her own share of secrets.
Jerry Benzwick and Oliver Mair
Oliver Mair’s performance was perplexing yet entertaining. He was clearly over-acting, and it was never evident whether he was merely jovial or drunk  but at least he brought some humour (sometimes deliberately) to the production. Benzwick spent the majority of the production barely present, but when he turned up toward the end, his delivery was solid.

Hazle and Watson are unable to tap into their characters. Storm is your standard dumb-blonde (devoid of the hair colour) who has a diabetes inducing personality. Elizabeth on the other hand is intended to be dark and sultry. Unfortunately neither Hazle nor Watson conveyed the expressiveness required for successful portrayals, and Watson was particularly stilted in her delivery.

On the other hand, the production benefitted from a convincing set as well as good lighting and sound. Although the lighing produced numerous shadows, this served to enhance the setting and ambiance.

Clues was staged at the back of the pantry complex (Dumfries Road, New Kingston), in an intimate setting akin to a black-box theatre, but with no sides. So, if nothing else, with its staging, Clues has introduced the possibility of a new space for experimental theatre, with or without the dinner. The production was staged during Restaurant Week 2013, 8 - 16 November.