2016 has been a highly successful first year, and we are delighted to have been able to work with six local non-profit organisations. We presented three murder mysteries during the year:
A Valentine’s Murder
Set in a 1926 Chicago speak-easy, involving gangsters and their molls, this story dealt with a tale of mob warfare, dodgy dealings and rivals in love. Additional entertainment included two blues numbers sung by the character Betsie Millberg.
- Performed in the Baptist Church, Canterbury on Thursday 10 March, for the Canterbury Christchurch Christian Union as part of their open outreach week. (Set fee)
Cirque de la Mort
A bloody tale of familial rivalry under the Big Top, Cirque de la Mort scratched the intriguing surface of circus life, boasting acrobats with an impressive floor show, comedy clowning antics, a suspect fortune teller, a rookie knife thrower’s assistant and probably the worst circus manager in the business.
- Hoath Village Hall for Hoath with District WI on Saturday 04 June; (profit share).
- Worthgate Scout Hall, Wincheap, Canterbury for Worthgate Scouts, on Saturday 11 June; (profit share).
- Beechen Hall for the Medway branch of the MS Society’s social event on Saturday 18 June; (set fee).
With three performances, this production allowed us to have more than one ending, with a different murderer.
Unavoidable health issues meant recasting and an extended rehearsal period. This allowed us the opportunity to extend our network of actors, and include a third show. Everyone pulled together to put off what is probably my personal favourite of the year. A great story, an innovative use of space and a lively, textured script.
Sea Salt & Slaughter
With September 19 being International Speak-like-a-Pirate Day, who could resist? This was a wonderful piece of swashbuckling, rum-swigging, sea shanty-singing fun, set in the Drunken Mermaid Tavern 1720. Packed with panto-style characters, thick west-country accents, and tall tales this mystery was loved by the audiences and cast alike. Additional entertainment included four sea shanties sung by the whole cast with audience participation encouraged. Our treasure map game, where the audience guessed where “X marked the spot” added admirably to the profits of the evening.
- The MS Therapy Centre Canterbury on Friday 09 September; (profit share).
- Reculver and Beltinge Memorial Hall, Beltinge for the 2nd Reculver Brownies on Saturday 17 September; (profit share).
We started out with four goals for our murder mysteries this year:
1. To help local not-for-profit organisations raise their profiles and raise funds
This is rightly number one on the list. As a Community Interest Company (cic) we take our community commitment seriously, and this is at the heart of what we do.
We helped The Canterbury Christchurch Christian Union; Hoath with District WI; Worthgate Scout Group; the MS Therapy Centre Canterbury; the MS Society Medway; and 2nd Reculver Brownies all raise money for their causes. On the back of every programme we included a half-page promotional section to raise awareness of their group.
2. To use the performances to cement a working relationship with actors we already knew and to expand our pool of actors for future work.
In total we’ve worked with twenty-two actors from the following:
- Members of the Marlowe People’s Company who were known to us before hand
- Recruits from the Canterbury River Boat Tours
- Friends of friends
- Enthusiastic audience members from a previous show, and
- New faces who we invited from StarNow, to come and audition.
Injecting new blood into the group was refreshing and raised the game on professional attitudes, which is one of our chief aims going forward. We have indeed widened our pool of actors significantly in our first year.
The ad-lib element of the show, when the cast mingle, in character, with the audience, has particularly impressed audiences and hosting organisers. We have used this as a proving ground for performers who might go on to join us in our training and education programmes in the future.
3. To get some great stories out there
All three murder mysteries were excellent short plays in their own right and much praised by cast and audience. The heart of each story was about the relationship between the characters, but Karen Ince, our scriptwriter, put enough of the flavour of each theme into them to make them fascinating little worlds for the cast to inhabit, and the audience to visit. All the back story work proved essential during the ad-lib question sessions.
The characters were well observed, multi-layered and a joy to play, giving each actor challenges and rewards. Each mystery had a different feel, a different structure and new ways of working the ending, which kept returning-actors on their toes and returning audiences entertained.
4. To have huge fun
This goal has definitely been achieved! There have been so many belly laughs, such strong friendships formed and a real sense of achievement well earned. I’ve been proud to work with our performers and bring Karen’s fabulous scripts to life for some cracking audiences. Mission achieved!
Mission for next year: A greater pool of actors, a wider use of those we have, three more great stories and much larger audiences raising even more money for a far greater number of organisations. Oh, and have even MORE FUN!
Kit Stevens & Karen Ince
Directors of Phoebus Fire cic