Cocktail dress on, champagne drunk, 3 course Hotel Du Vin meal enjoyed – I cannot deny that my evening was well spent at Till Death Do Them Part: the Fine Food and Dining Society’s immersive murder mystery dinner. The evening’s success rested heavily on the improvisation skills of the 6 main actors – Molly Williams, Caelan Mitchell-Bennett, Minoli de Silva, Bennett Hunecke, Kate Stamoulis and Sasha Gisbourne (aided by photographers, wedding planners and hotel staff who were indispensable to the immersion – in particular Mary Byrne, the ‘host from the hotel’, did such a great job that I thought she worked for Hotel Du Vin until she was presented with flowers at the end of the night!). We were first welcomed into a reception chamber in which the actors slowly began to mingle with the assembled guests. Special mention must be made of Williams and Mitchell-Bennett who adeptly dealt with every single question thrown at them, providing seamless characterisation. The atmosphere was warm and the excitement tangible (I heard many a whisper of “he/she’s gonna die, I bet you”). Sure enough, as the Bride and Groom toasted to the occasion, the latter bent double in a realistic choking fit and we were all shepherded desperately out of the reception room and through to the dining room, accompanied by promises of “yes, I’ll call the police in a minute”.
In the Dining Room the table was crowded but not claustrophobic, and the action revolved pretty well around the space – although I do believe I was privileged to have one of the best viewing angles as little action took place behind me. Each course was interspersed with a rehearsed segment of the murder mystery. This structure worked well on the whole – each scene ended with enough of a cliffhanger to fuel the following course with theories and hypothesising. Ideas and clues were bounced up and down the table with every single guest getting involved in intense debates.
The food was lovely – a special mention must go to the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup and Cod starters which were polished off incredibly fast. One little disappointment was that the menus on the table were titled ‘Murder Mystery Dinner’, and the actors waited next to the toilets when not performing, which did somewhat crush the illusion they were trying so hard to build. This could presumably have been avoided by finding a separate space for the actors – particularly Gisbourne, since seeing the victim posthumously lounging on a sofa did somewhat spoil the hard work Mann and her team put into maintaining suspension of disbelief.
The story itself was quite satisfying as whodunnits go – a minor criticism is that the ending felt a little unsupported, and the lack of a consistent strong build up (which was probably due to the dinner style of the evening and a restriction on performance time) left me a little underwhelmed by the conclusion. This may also have been affected by the fact that a few clues were missed by my end of the table, due to a lack of projection from the actors in what was a deceptively large room, and the constant undercurrent of noise from the whispers and murmurs of the audience with which the actors were having to compete.
Though the classic “Oh my God I should have known it was them!”, was missing from the conclusion for me, this is to put too heavy an emphasis on the plot in an evening that promised to be a dinner with a murderous twist – in which capacity it did not disappoint. I would certainly go along to another immersive offering from the Fine Food and Dining Society, and would recommend it to anyone interested in a slightly different theatre/dining experience.