The Butler Did It
Meanwhile Gallery, 2/99 Wllis Street, Wellington
08/03/2023 - 11/03/2023
Based on work by Kelsey Aldersley and Isabella Murray
Written and directed by Isabella Murray and Revena Correll Trnka
With devising from Adam Herbert and David Bowers-Mason
Duct Taped On
Run Time: 60 minutes
Times: 8-11 March, 8pm
Location: Meanwhile Gallery, 2/99 Willis Street
And good old fashioned murder mystery. The Butler Did It is an absurd, interactive comedy, featuring Wellington’s best detective, and the other one. The superintendent has been murdered in the art gallery and Detectives Didit and Dunnit only have 60 minutes to solve the case before the rest of the Lower Hutt police arrive and take over. Everybody’s a suspect as they follow the clues and twist to try and untangle the mystery.
The Butler Did It is an interactive show – the audience will be spoken to directly and asked for responses, but will not need to step into the performance space. The show is based on the two most prevalent detective tropes – the callous genius and the bumbling idiot.
Starring Adam Herbert (Detective Didit) and David Bowers-Mason (Detective Dunnit)
50 minutes of well-dressed chaos and clumsiness that has the audience in fits of laughter
Review by Talia Carlisle 10th Mar 2023
Brush off your bowler hat and pull up your braces for the night that promises to be “unlike any art gallery opening before” – and that is an understatement.
Witnesses of The Butler Did It by Duct Taped On arrive at Meanwhile Gallery to find a warning that this is an interactive show which features death, fake weapons, loud noises, and antagonistic views of Lower Hutt (well, what show doesn’t…?)
The rest we are yet to discover.
The beautiful open space of Meanwhile Gallery on Willis St is so perfect for a performance venue that it is my second visit there – and my second time being part of a murder mystery in this venue.
The curated Wellington panoramic paintings on the wall remind me I should really visit when there isn’t a death on the cards. But yay for offering Wellingtonians a muliti-faceted entertainment experience complete with canapes and a mystery to solve.
I’m not sure if you can call this a mystery when the killer is named in the title. But don’t worry this isn’t a spoiler, since the plot and characters move so fast it’s almost impossible to keep up.
I find myself captivated by the Mission Impossible style stunts and fast-paced banter of Tweedle-Dunnit and Tweedle-Didit (my personal preferred nicknames for the two bumbling detectives). These murder professionals and stuntmen don’t have far to move in the small venue, and instead utilise props and their own specially created artworks to paint the picture.
They both embody a bumbling genius trope, rather than one or the other, and can’t agree on anything – often correcting each other and themselves which makes the characters seem less confident about what they are saying, and therefore the story harder to follow.
It is left to the audience to imagine the crime scene, the suspects, the crime, the murderer and our own version of events since the detectives seem too distracted chasing balls of yarn to fully string us along with their version of events.
We all end up in a tangled mess – literally – which I believe is rather the point of this speckled, confetti-laiden detective story that is one for the memory bank.
The commitment to chaos from Detectives Didit (Adam Herbert) and Dunnit (David Bowers-Mason) are applaudable as no crumb is left uninspected, nor canape unthrown at the gallery’s Receptionist (co-writer Isabella Murray). Their nemesis, the Garden Picnic Killer is also nowhere to be found.
Audience members are called upon to join the interrogations, offer recommendations or high-five the detectives who are very keen to congratulate themselves on their assumptions before U-turning on their predictions another 17 times a minute.
I wonder if they remember us the rest of the time, treating us like pretty wallpaper and even using people as hooks, which I did worry was a choking hazard, but don’t worry, there is a warning about that too!
All in all, it’s 50 minutes of well-dressed chaos and clumsiness that has the audience in fits of laughter, and the actors in a fitter shape with all the leaping and death scenes.
Added to which, there are some good lines thrown in by the writing team of Isabella Murray and Revena Correll Trnka, based on work by Isabella and Kelsey Aldersley, with devising by Adam and David.
My favourite line is, “There is no back and forth, there’s only forth,” and heading forth into the world is an abrupt transition after tonight’s Fringe show experience.
The last thing you would want from a Fringe show is something expected, and so I am grateful to experience something new, something old, some balloons, and this Duct Taped On show, finally! So head forth and see them while you can, if you dare. Warning: it’s a tangle you can’t escape so bring some wire-cutters – you might need them.
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