Over My Dead Body
Adelaide University Fringe Club @ Sandford House
2:00pm, Sat 12 Mar 2011
It’s the penultimate day of the Fringe, and even though the weather is sticky and overcast, it’s entirely too bright outside. I stagger to Sandford House, guided by my iPhone’s GPS – I’d always thought it was a stupid feature for a phone, but I’ll happily concede that it proved to be invaluable today.
Sandford House is lush (and was the home the Braggs, Nobel Prize winning physicists), surrounded by gorgeous gardens on the edge of the East Parklands (and we spied an owl nesting in a tree on the way out!). Things aren’t exactly well signposted, but we eventually find ourselves in what must have been an old library or sitting room; it’s a lovely, wide space, but also uncomfortably warm. Luckily for us only about half the seats were occupied; more bodies would’ve made the room stifling, especially given the long (ninety-plus minutes!) running time of the play.
The wonderfully produced (except for the typo on the front cover) programme tells the story: the Murder League, a cadre of ageing crime-fiction writers, is suffering. The public are putting down their once-essential novels in favour of the flashing pictures of the cinema and television; their elegant plots and machinations are seen as obtuse; vision has taught the public what real murder looks like. Not only that, but a brash younger style of writer is coming to prominence, selling books that offer a combination of tawdry sex and violence. The death of a former member drives the Murder League deeper into despair.
The three remaining members hatch a plan to renew interest in their craft – they decide to stage their own murder, demonstrating just how clever the crime can be. They aim to be caught, of course, but their “life” imprisonment doesn’t seem like much of an impost; and anyway, the resulting fame will be more than worth it.
Of course, things go unexpectedly wrong; who’d have thought that committing such an ingenious crime would prove to be so difficult? The second act sees the bumbling writers attempting to steer the investigations of a star-struck detective investigating the case. It all gets a little hare-brained and slapstick, but it all comes together in the end…
Over My Dead Body is a bit of an odd fit for the Fringe; as I mentioned above, it’s looong (and the interval makes it even longer), and it’s got a curiously British feel about it. It also has a cluster of actors playing characters three times their age; they manage to put on a reasonably convincing performance, and there’s a tangible sense of camaraderie between the three Murder League members (though Alastair Collins’ irritable and doddering butler steals the show). But there are a lot of very drawn-out scenes in the play, especially in the first Act; too much sitting around reading newspapers, not enough plot development!
So whilst the story was amusing, the execution left a bit to be desired. Yes, I spent a fair amount of time being entertained, but I also spent a greater amount of time wondering how much water I had left… and when the performance would wrap up, so I could escape the hot-box.