Bring together the work of Jane Austen and the modern world of dating together to create a murder mystery with a twist you get An Austentatious Murder. Using the works of Jane Austen, an algorithm has been created in order to find a perfect love match on an matchmaking app. Between the characters Clyde Enpredjudice (Austen expert) and Dan Sfieldpark (co-founder of the app), they believe in the concept that Austen had the right idea when it came to romance, and their collaboration would be the one that would solve all dating issues, based on information and a points system submitted to create a dating profile. When a murder occurs during their app launch, we (as the audience) are left to solve the mystery.
It was like being in our own living Austen novel
What evolved was a fun, interactive experience, which challenged our minds and at times our knowledge of Austen, working out who killed Ann Sfieldpark (Dan's ex-wife), who has apparently been stabbed through the heart with a hat pin. Or was it?
We were placed into teams in Zoom's breakout rooms and, using an extremely well put together clues pack, we gradually pieced together the information we needed to solve the mystery, whilst also listening to the characters' various testimonies. These performances were not only extremely well researched in terms of period costumes and virtual backgrounds, but at times it was like being in our own living Austen novel due to the language they used. The performances were so entertaining, they almost verged on the edge of pantomime, especially when there some were interactions from the audience were encouraged when everyone was together in the main Zoom room.
It didn't matter whether you knew a lot about Austen's novels, as the main focus was on the relationships of the characters present in the show. One of particular interest was the aptly named Susan Sensibility - a journalist who knew the victim from university. They were good friends and originally had a good friendship until this new app came along. Watching the reasons behind why this relationship disintegrated was very much worth experiencing; especially as all four characters (including financial backer Percy Uasion) are seemingly unrelated to each other.
One issue that did confuse some attendees was the time restriction to look through and absorb the information. We were also asked to create a limerick, which Austen loved to read herself. This was a lovely authentic touch to the proceedings, but occasionally it felt like the timings were slighty too short to look at everything properly as events evolved. It may benefit occasionally from just having an extra minute or two, with maybe leaving the addition of the limerick as an option if time is on everyone's sides. Even though it was made clear that it didn't matter if people didn't manage to write one, just having the reassurance that it is an option might help those who were concentrating on the details of the murder plot more.
Having said this, An Austentatious Murder is a well constructed performance that is both detailed and authentic to the spirit of Austen's work, but with a modern twist. It has the right mix of character work and immersive theatre to create a memorable experience for all.