As an avid fan of Scooby Doo, I was quite excited for OTR’s murder-mystery dinner last Saturday night. By and large, the event made for quite an engaging and enjoyable evening despite a few hiccups along the way. The evening commenced with the guests gathering next to St Salvator’s chapel. During the 20-minute wait before the commencement of the dinner, we had the chance to encounter some of the cast members. Already in character, some of the actors were easier to discern from the guests than others. The interactions with the actors were somewhat awkward and it seemed like most of the guests were slightly uncomfortable and confused about how to engage with these extravagant characters. Thankfully, the initially awkwardness died (insert appropriate pun) down once we were taken to Lower College Hall for the long-awaited dinner
It was evident that a lot of thought and careful planning had gone into the venue arrangement by the On the Rocks committee. Lower College Hall was, by and large, the best choice of location for such an event to take place. The dim lighting, the towering portraits and heavy drapery of the curtains instantly conveyed an alluring, yet somewhat curious atmosphere. Before entering the banqueting hall, the attendees were greeted by Richard – the protagonist of the night who had supposedly made some revolutionary discoveries surrounding the death of Patrick Hamilton. Thus the purpose of the evening was to celebrate the publication of his findings. The discrepancies about the details of Hamilton later turned out the motivation behind the attempted murder of Richard. Certainly, Richard was portrayed perfectly as an arrogant and pompous St Andrean and frankly I was quite saddened that he was not murdered during the course of the night after all.
The premise behind the murder-mystery aspect of the night entailed the actors circling all of the tables between courses and revealing certain aspects about themselves or other characters. In terms of acting abilities, characters such as Eleanor (Alexandra Upton), Richard (Felix Griffin), Melania (Evey Salehi) and The Detective (Harrison Roberts) showed strong skill in the craft. Likewise, I was extremely impressed by Finn Doyle’s ability to remain seated at the dinner table with his head hanging low whilst he played dead for several hours before being dragged out by one of the audience members as part of audience participation. I found myself concerned about Finn’s neck pain for the most part, yet I also thought it remarkable that he was able to withstand the temptation of food and alcohol for such a long period of time. At times, it seemed that some of the actors broke character several times, in particular when they failed to find a medic amongst the audience members, which unfortunately ruined some of the mystery and illusion of the night.
The script itself, written by Gabriele Uboldi, did award the audience with ample entertainment. A favourite for most in the audience was the revelation of countless love affairs amongst the group of elite friends whilst the minute-long kiss between Victor (Sasha Gisborne) and Richard (Felix Griffin) was undoubtedly a crowd favourite. The introduction of the Detective was also a warm welcome as he managed to awaken even the most tired of attendees with his comedic skits. However, the manner in which the Detective scenes progressed seemed a little dragged out and it was difficult to distinguish whether this was on the part of the script or the actors’ ad-libs.
Another source of confusion was the fact that half way through the night our table was approached by, what we initially thought was an extra cast member by the name of Griffin who was not introduced to us at the start of the banquet. Griffin followed in the steps of the other actors by checking whether we were enjoying the evening and revealed some extra information about the plot such as the coming of The Detective which was in reality meant to be a surprise for the audience. It later transpired that the ‘impostor’ in question was the academic child of one of the OTR committee members and his appearance at the table was part of an inside joke. Although, it was evident that the situation brought forth a mixture of confusion and giggles from bewildered audience members, it also created a setback in terms of plot. I am sure there were certain guests who did not realise the joke behind this random character introduction and considered this to be a major blunder of the night. In this respect, it does seem a little foolish of OTR to sabotage themselves with such a prank during their first major event of the year.
However, guests were easily able to overcome any mistakes of the night with the appearance of the two-course dinner which was delivered by the carefully synchronised manoeuvres of the waiting staff. Although those who had the non-vegetarian main course option may have found the chicken a little dry, all was forgiven with the appetising delight that was the sticky-toffee pudding. The additional round of tea and chocolates also made for a great substitute for those lamenting the absence of a starter.
Overall, OTR successfully pulled off a refreshing and exciting evening. The innovation that went into conceptualising and executing this dinner was evident throughout the night despite minor flaws in places. It was definitely a great alternative for those who have become jaded with the incessant amount of balls St Andrews has. The £40 price for the night also seems quite fair if taking into consideration the cost of renting out the venue, hiring the dinner staff, the food and the amount of time the actors and organisers alike must have committed to produce the event. In short, I hope that this type of original evening will inspire further innovation in events that St Andrews has to offer.
Rating: 4 stars