Review: Death on the menu at a York hotel

14 Apr 2013 @ 7.50 pm
| Entertainment
A body is discovered. But whodunnit?
Review: The Shewstone Murder
Venue: Lady Anne Middleton Hotel, Skeldergate, York
Friday, April 12

An invitation to a murder mystery evening with our chance to play detective and guess whodunnit – while enjoying a three-course meal someone else has cooked. What’s not to like?

It was just like those boxed murder mystery dinner games that were popular in the 1990s – where you were allocated a character, given their profile and a potted biog and then expected to turn up dressed for your part and ready to mingle.

Well, it was the small enthusiastic team of local actors who comprise Nightshade Productions who took on all the hard work.

We were rather sorry that we “guests” weren’t invited to dress up in 1920s style (in keeping with the chosen period for the dirty deed that was to take place), as that would have added to the atmosphere. Although the 35 or so participants who had paid £30 for murder, mystery and a meal certainly didn’t seem to need any further encouragement to join in with the spirit of the evening’s entertainment.

Period music helped to set the scene too, played in suitably crackly wind-up gramophone-style through the hotel sound system. We identified Jack Hylton, Al Jolson and Gershwin – and I was hopeful of catching the team out with some 1930s numbers, but my (much better informed) partner confirmed the team’s research had been spot-on accurate.

The fun started immediately on arrival, with four of the actors, suitably attired, circulating amongst the guests, introducing themselves, dropping hints about the state of relations between the various players and open to answering all our questions. Except that no one had been murdered yet, so we weren’t quite sure what to ask… Not that a little thing like that was going to deter us all from playing Marple and Morse, obviously.

It was a good opportunity for Lady Anne Middleton’s to showcase their restaurant, although they played safe with their choice of menu when catering for a large party of unknowns. Some of the dishes we saw being served up to diners in the bar area looked creative and appetizing.

Backdrop to murder: Lady Anne Middleton's Hotel
Backdrop to murder: Lady Anne Middleton’s Hotel
The detectives start the interrogation
The detectives start the interrogation

In between and during courses the actors worked hard, moving from table to table to join us for conversation, and give us the opportunity to ask them questions about anything and everything. There was still no sign of anything stiffer than the priest’s dog collar, never mind a corpse, but after a couple of drinks, and as the evening went on, we were all well into it.

Dinner guests had introduced themselves to their neighbours and were not only actively taking notes, but comparing them. There was no shortage of conversational topics! And more than once we heard someone wondering aloud whether there might be a prize for the successful detective…? Put any two Englishmen together and you have a competition.

Indeed, the Catholic priest was slightly disconcerted to find one of his Bible references from Leviticus being challenged aloud by one of the guests – according to Google, the phrase is actually to be found in Exodus!

After the meal had been cleared away, the lights were lowered and the main action was evidently about to kick off. There was a definite air of tension and expectancy. Despite all the hints dropped by the helpful actors, I still couldn’t even decide who was going to be a victim, never mind who might be a murderer.

Then the pace of action was fast and furious. Everyone was quite swept up in it – to the extent of some people calling out a warning when it suddenly became clear that there was going to be more than just one person dying…

But I’m not going to give away any of the plot, because it’s definitely worth going along and experiencing the fun for yourself – and if you can’t catch the Shewstone Murder, then there are a string of open-air performances of Jekyll and Hyde planned around the streets of York this July (email [email protected] for more information).

And if you’re looking to host an unusual corporate event – something with a twist perhaps, then Nightshade Productions are always up for a challenge.