Amateur sleuths who have already re-read all their Agatha Christie novels during the lock down and are looking for a new thrill, along with first-time detectives alike, might consider tuning into a Morrigan Mystery Evenings virtual murder mystery game.
The most recent game was hosted by A.C. Hunter Library last week and was accessible, free-of-charge, to anyone with a library card and an internet connection.
Participants watch the improvised drama unfold, as a host of characters accuse one another of the murder of a local man. Of course, everyone is a suspect, and everyone seems to have a motive. So, whodunit? That’s for the audience to discover, as they themselves interact with the characters, ask questions, and formulate a solution.
Because of the interaction between participants and actors, the drama is more interactive and less predictable than a typical staged production.
“We would have improvised scenes where we knew what the outcome had to be but we didn’t know the path we would sue to get there,” said Christine Hennebury of Morrigan Mystery Evenings.
“While there may be some difference from performance to performance, a scripted play is just that— it’s scripted,” said Hennebury. “And while a different director or a different actor may bring out different nuances, the order of how things are going to go is already laid out. In ours, what we have, is that each actor has been given a character and just a few elements that that have to include. They know whether or not they’re the murderer. And they know that they have, maybe five pieces of information that they have to share during the course of the discussion.
“They can’t just come up to someone and say, ‘Jim over there used to throw rocks at people, and you’ll notice that the weapon was a rock.’ You can’t do that. So, they have to come up with a little story about Jim and the rock throwing and hope that the people that they’re talking to pick up on it. So, we’re leaving it up to the audience to connect the dots, and the actors have a lot more freedom in how they deliver these things.”
“As long as it doesn’t contradict the basic storyline we’ve established, we can really run with things, because we never know what the audience is going to ask us. They’re wondering about things characters’ mothers said to them or who they sat next to in Geography in high school. I’m always astounded by our audiences’ imaginations and where they end up with their information is amazing. They should all eb working on murder mysteries,”
Hennebury’s own character for the night was created on-the-fly.
“My character was supposed to be completely different,” said Hennebury. “But because I had trouble with my internet and whatnot, I was frantic by the time I signed in. So, I was inventing who my character was as I was talking. It was a coincidence that I happened to lean to close to the camera, and I thought, ‘I look ridiculous— my character is going to do this the whole time,’ so, I just ran with it in that moment. She was supposed to be much more reserved and held back, but instead I decided to lean right into her weirdness that I accidentally started.”
The current incarnation of the Mount Pearl based Morrigan Mystery Evening group started in 2010, but Hennebury said she has been putting off murder mysteries in one form or another for the past twenty years.
“People like to solve a contained problem,” she said. “There is an awful lot of things in the world, problems and issues and whatnot, and they don’t have easy solutions.
“People have great problem-solving skills, but it may not be enough to solve this bigger problem. I think there’s something relaxing about coming into a situation that’s all contained, and you know no one is in actual danger, there is no peril for a wrong decision, and all you have to do is focus on these pieces and pout it together like a puzzle. So, you get to sue these skills that you have, that you enjoy using. And the solution is fun to come up. And also, it really doesn’t matter in the big picture.”
Morrigan Mystery Evenings have been putting off virtual murder mystery games, most of which are free, throughout the pandemic.
Like other artists and performers, they have had to adopt to the COVID-19 restrictions which have shut down theatres, bars, and other performance spaces.
“There are a lot of people struggling,” said Hennebury, who also serves as chair of the Association for the Arts in Mount Pearl (AAMP). “Being able to do things through Zoom, or over the phone, or on Facebook Live, that’s one thing. But it is not the same as what they were doing before.”
“People are struggling to do the things that are most satisfying for them. This is how they spend their lives, and it’s very jarring that there’s no way possible way to continue as they did before. And I think people are innovating and coping extremely well, but there’s still something missing, even as they do theses things online.”
Hennebury suggested that, apart from buying art produced by local artists, those who wish to support the arts during the pandemic have a whole host of options available to them, from promoting artists, reviewing their work, offering to collaborate on projects, and supporting organizations that support the arts.
Meanwhile, the next mystery will be hosted in partnership with AAMP towards the end of April.
Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News