“…a narrative of comedy and chaos, campiness and colour… This is a murder mystery the likes of which you’ve never seen before…
My name is Henry Skinner, a first year currently studying English at Hatfield College, and it’s been my privilege to direct this year’s Freshers’ Play, “A Murder is Announced”. In a sleepy English village, an advertisement in the local gazette declaring the time and place of an upcoming murder throws local residents into turmoil. Following the death of an unexpected victim, Miss Marple and fellow Inspector Craddock wield their detective prowess in an attempt to uncover the truth beneath the deceit.
So much theatre in today’s age is heavy, imbued with meaning and morality, designed to leave its audience with a lasting impact, an altered perception, a new idea about the world. Whilst I adore theatre for its power to share lived experiences and spark discourse, with this play my focus has solely been to display drama’s ability to entertain. I wanted to take the comedy within this script and elevate it to the nth degree – ludicrously camp, exceedingly flamboyant, colourful and garish, a feast for the senses. Extravagant entrances and excessive sound effects electrify the stage. A heavy influence from the classic board game Cluedo permeates the performance, including monochrome outfits for each of the murder suspects and Cluedo character portraits adorning the stage walls – all set against the backdrop of a quintessential Victorian manor house. In line with this, I wanted to lean into the stereotypes offered by each character, maximising their potential for humour – the matriarchal and austere Miss Blacklock, the scatter-brained and absent-minded Bunny, the sibling skirmishes of Julia and Patrick, the prim and proper Mrs Swettenham, accompanied by snooty son Edmund, the nonchalant ‘it-girl’ Philippa, and the hot-tempered house cook Mitzi. However, their detective counterparts – Miss Marple and Inspector Craddock (accompanied by assistant Mellors) – present a more naturalistic and tempered approach, in contrast to the absurdity of surrounding suspects. All mingle and clash with one another in glorious disharmony, resulting in a narrative of comedy and chaos, campiness and colour. Forget everything you thought you knew about the whodunnit genre. This is a murder mystery the likes of which you’ve never seen before.
This has been my first experience with DST, and I have been so grateful for the incredible support I have received and the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. Although initially concerned about the tight turnaround of the play (we’ve had two weeks to complete the entire show), all involved, both cast and crew, have given the process their absolute all, making the experience as fun as it has been chaotic. This is hopefully just the start of what will be many more shows for me here at Durham; I hope you enjoy the show as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it for you.
By Henry Skinner
Photo Credits: Durham Student Theatre
‘A Murder Is Announced’ will be shown in the Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms Theatre at 19:00 on Thursday to Saturday the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of November. Tickets are available now through the Durham Student Theatre Website.