A Dinner To Die For

A Dinner To Die ForA Dinner to Die For is an interactive entertainment event: a murder mystery evening replete with three course meal, staged at The Retreat Hotel in Abbotsford (where The Sullivans was filmed).

The evening was a sell-out, with 35 appropriately dressed guests in attendance for Lord Quinten Daventry’s birthday bash. The attention that the participants paid to their costuming and characters was quite something to see. Having been notified earlier in the week of our characters’ names and professions, it would seem that all 35 of us eagerly Googled the hair and costuming styles of 1928 and then focussed all our latent flapper-esque desires on appropriately bedecking ourselves. The small function room (prepare to eat with your elbows clamped firmly to your sides) really did look the part of a late 1920s aristocratic dinner party.

In broad terms, the show was a success. The meal was passable but certainly not something I’d return for in a hurry. (Fortunately, the cocktails went half way to making up for this.) The murder mystery plot is good, but more work needs to be put into spacing out the events so the middle part of the evening doesn’t drag. The cast of six main performers are strong enough to carry the evening through, but only just. The heavy reliance on the double meaning of the words fanny and ring, though funny, soon desperately needed some partners in crime.

The true delight of A Dinner To Die For comes in the performance of the show’s creator Simon J. Robinson. Robinson is a wonderful comic actor with a firm grasp on both the era and the acting style required for the murder mystery genre. His drag performance is a hoot. All of the energy generated in the entire evening’s proceedings comes from him.

Leonie White (playing Miss Fanny Farquar, newly engaged to host Lord Quentin) is the only other member of the cast who shines. She has a lovely singing voice and a good grasp on the character of Fanny, deftly diving into all those double entendres with the wide-eyed innocence required of her.

A much stronger performance is needed from David Gould, who plays Lord Quentin Daventry. I had the dubious honour of sitting next to Lord Quentin, (I was actually playing his Godmother and looked more like his sister - oops, my bad) and he really did struggle to keep our table both entertained and au fait with the plot proceedings.

My main criticism of A Dinner To Die For is that much more attention needs to be paid to finding a way to have the guests (audience) interact with one another and with the whole cast, not just the one cast member seated at your own table. Gertrude Glossop, the maid/cook played by Sue Miles, is an obvious choice for this. She could easily be relieved of her plate clearing duties to spend the evening flitting from table to table admiring the aristocratic ladies’ jewellery and flirting with the Lords and Barons. She could then orchestrate some simple introductions and carry gossip and rumours about the murders from table to table. The other thing that I longed for was a truly gob-smackingingly good song or monologue that comes out of nowhere and is purely for the guests’ entertainment.

Criticisms aside, it’s still a fun evening, especially, I would think, if you book a whole table of friends. The show really did hit its stride at the very end of the night. I found myself grinning as I, along with 40 other voices in a darkened room, chanted “The chalice of the palace of Chum-num-nuts” over and over as we held hands and collectively tried to commune with a freshly murdered spirit. The moments where the guests are involved in the plot are well orchestrated and a lot of fun. A Dinner To Die For will most appeal to those looking for an opportunity to unleash their inner actor / get dressed up for dinner / enjoy a good old fashioned murder mystery / want to experience a dinner out with a fun twist.

Bare Elements Productions & The Retreat Hotel proudly presents
A Dinner to Die For

Venue: The Retreat Hotel | 226 Nicholson Street, Abbotsford, VIC
When: Saturday 4th, 18th or 25th April, June 13, 2009
From: 7.30pm
Dinner & Show $80 pp
For further information or to book call The Retreat Hotel on 9417 2693
Visit: www.adinnertodiefor.com | www.comedyfestival.com.au

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