Isabelle Culkin talks to the directors of ‘Sleuth’ about what makes the murder mystery genre so special and what is the biggest challenge to their production.
When I meet the directors of 3DTC’s upcoming production of Sleuth it is abundantly clear that the murder mystery genre is their thing. Fliss McDowall admits that she “wanted to set up a theatre company that just did murder mysteries” because she personally thought it was a particularly neglected genre in Durham.
Murder mysteries are certainly a niche genre, and yet it is undoubtedly a genre with which most people are very familiar. McDowall explains that her own personal love of murder mysteries stems from being brought up in Devon, which is obviously where the character of Agatha Christie is from, and her own personal experience of working for a murder mystery company back home.
Sleuth itself is a play set in the manor house of a vastly successful and popular mystery writer Andrew Wyke. The most interesting premise of the play is deciphering between where Wyke’s imagination ends and where reality begins, as he invites his wife’s lover to the house in order to persuade him to stage a robbery of her jewellery.
The real joy of this play lies in the discrepancy between illusion and reality, and McDowall particularly loves “the dark humour and the plot twists” and compares it to being a bit like a thriller. Her co-director, Jenny Millar, agrees that the beauty of the play relies upon how “everything changes, and then it changes again; it is both complicated and not complicated”.
Fliss McDowall and Jenny Millar have chosen to perform Sleuth in Ushaw College. McDowall says that the ‘actual play lends itself well to Ushaw College’ because Wyke’s home is supposed to be so grand and eccentric, and Ushaw’s interior lends itself to this.
In fact, in a production powered by such enthusiastic individuals, it is the venue itself which may pose the biggest challenges. McDowall admits their biggest challenge could easily be “getting an audience there”. However, with a bus service at your door and plenty of the right reasons to see it, it appears that getting there shouldn’t actually be a challenge at all. In fact, the impression of how hard it is to get to Ushaw College from Durham City, is aptly, much like the play, a product of illusion.
‘Sleuth’ is at Ushaw College on Sat 13 June.
Photograph: Fliss McDowall