Murder mystery games have been a popular form of entertainment, where a group of people get together and play the roles of various people in a murder mystery, trying to solve the mystery.
Once a parlour game, it has now become a popular exercise for corporate Human Resource initiatives, where people participating in the exercise are also involved in the development of the ‘murder’ situation.
M D Riti, who established Riti’s Murder Games in 2004, has been staging murder mysteries for corporate clients for six years now. She recently staged one for the Concern India Foundation, a non-profit, public charitable trust that supports development-oriented organisations working for disadvantaged people. This was also the first time an interactive murder mystery was staged in a public place in Bengaluru. The event was a fundraiser for the Foundation, with a buffet dinner included for the diners, at a St Marks Road restaurant.
Written by Riti herself, the plot revolves around Jason, who is going to direct his first movie, and finds his "irritating, annoying" ex-wife Riti turning up to help him with it. The other characters are Amala and her rival Ujwala, who both want to be the heroine, Jogi, whom Amala is interested in, and Nelson, Jason’s twin brother who is a policeman.
There is a hilarious mix up of four items: a "stamina powder", a love potion, rat poison and the antidote to this, each of which are ingested by various characters.
Jason dies, and the object of the exercise is to have the audience of diners do some detecting on their own.
Though initially there was some inhibition on the part of the audience in participating, once the mystery got under way, they got quite involved.
During the play, which laster over an hour, ‘Nelson’ walked around the audience with several pre-written questions, giving the diners clues to solve the mystery.
In addition to the twists of the plot, there were two unwitting red herrings – one was Riti spilling wine on her dress, which some in the audience thought was a clue. However, it was only an opportunity to refer to ‘Fabric Spa’, a laundry care service offered by Jyothy Laboratories Ltd, which was one of the co-sponsors of the show, along with Tata Photon.
The other twist was the breaking of one of the wine-glasses – all Agatha Christie fans were convinced that this was also significant, but it was, apparently, a genuine accident!
The cast were extremely hampered by two things. One was the lack of good acoustics in the rooftop restaurant, where the murder mystery was staged. This ensured that many members of the audience could not hear the dialogues properly.
This problem was compounded by the lack of enough microphones for the cast. Juggling around the microphones that were available, and also having to hand them to the audience to ask questions, made it a real problem for the cast to deliver their lines, especially when some of them were being ad-libbed as well.
For a while, the details of the mystery were too much of a mystery to the audience, but it is to the credit of Riti and her team that finally, the audience not only got the plot, but two ladies in the audience were able to solve the murder mystery correctly. One of them won a voucher for Rs 2000 from Fabric Spa.
There was then a draw of visiting cards and the lucky winners were given Tata Photon phones.
Once the mystery was cleared up, so to speak, the buffet dinner, consisting of a spread of Bengali dishes (and including more unusual sweets like Malpua and Bhapa Sondesh!) was served and the audience dispersed.
For a first effort in a public space, Riti’s Murder Games must be credited with a good effort, but they need to get to grips with some of the problems that threatened to make more of a mystery out of the play than even they had planned!
Riti’s Murder Games
K-5, !0th Cross,
Bangalore 560080 Ph: 98800 26428
"We’ve only staged such mysteries for corporates, so far," says Riti. In corporate events, she says, the event is for a more homogenous audience. This time, she re-wrote some portions of the play keeping the larger restaurant space, and the random nature of the audience in mind.
All in all, it was an enjoyable play, and hopefully, we will see more murder mysteries being staged as supper theatre in the restaurants of Bangalore. Such events are very popular abroad, and with a little more care to the production and the dialogue delivery, Riti’s Murder Games should be finding itself a popular presence at supper theatre events.