There's hardly any food or furniture left when The Master devours the dining room and fumes with comic frustration when it takes a while for the audience to cotton on to his name. Clear sign half the audience are fresh to Gallifrey.
Dinner theatre in a convention hall conceit and a guest of honour running late. It's a shambles of management and therein lies the first layer of comedy in a mood ripe for accidental murder. The jostling starts quick and the disbelief sets an air of tension and scoff that only builds up the hubris and grand stride of The Master (Pete Sears).
Everyone stays on their parody name, save for Cascade Cadenza (Kathy Hobbs), who keeps getting called out as River Song. If it was part of the act, or off book, the drop that happens keeps the facade going all the same.
Boring Williams (Josh Stone) doesn't give much in the way of presence and that, especially if you're the Eleventh Doctor at first, is how it's to be. He's there, but you have to remind yourself that he is. Classic Rory.
Hammy Williams (Sasha Halvorsen) throws what sounds like some Scottish lilt, and the longing for another ride in the TARDIS is there to keep up with the stark red hair. Claire Oswall (Mary Brouse) makes the table rounds and hang on, what's going on here? it sounds like something a real restaurant staff member would slip through.
Tom Phillips is bang on for the Tenth Doctor. His mannerisms, tics, speech and general ebullience a very model of a David Tennant. If you're playing bingo on the side, you'll have the card marked off in no time, and then some, and then again who cares, because Phillips makes you want to go back and watch a little more of the Tennant era. Not a ginger. But still, what a Doctor.
The timeline, at least for The Doctor, follows close on the tail of “The End of Time” while the companions are from the Eleventh's generation. There's minor audience participation partway through, don't get worked up about it. It's all smooth.
Eleven, Eleven, Eleven, Eleven from “The Impossible Astronaut”, and a TARDIS make for the costume contest. As The Master quipped, it's like walking into a Shriners convention. So many fezzes. The youngest Eleven wins a book of stickers by applause.
Tonally it's right in the flavour of Doctor Who. The interactions and spirit keeps the game on and you don't realise that a whodunnit is happening, or setting itself up really, until they cart off the corpse. And then there's a refresher on the many methods the various characters had to drop the knife.
If you're up to speed on your modern day Doctor Who, you'll catch a lot of the references and hints. Those outside shouldn't feel too on the outer though as the rest of the jokes and interactions lay themselves out easy as. It's more of a slight, turn the corners of your mouth type of comedy, with a few chuckles in the mix. At times it gets broad, and that's where the comedy plays. Context and listening in matters, so soon-to-be Whovians are on the same plane as old hats.
Fantastical Theatricals whips a neck when the good natured dinner theatre of Doctor! WHO is the Murderer?!? comes about with a spluttering demise, that too is funny to witness. Such is death.
Inside the TARDIS of the matinee performance at The Chop House on 9 August 2014. Roughly 60 minutes excluding the food wait by the restaurant beforehand.
Reviewed on Sunday, 17 August 2014