Preview: In the Study with the Dagger

Next Friday, for a one night only theatrical experience, Cuth’s Drama Society will be putting on their self-written play In the Study with the Dagger. A time-warping murder mystery, the play builds upon itself in a series of flashbacks, each revealing the background and potential motive of one of the characters. Set in a school, the play begins on the first day of a new term, four days after the murder of the headmaster. Every character has something to hide, and every audience member acts as a detective in this somewhat interactive production.

Written by the CDS exec, In the Study with the Dagger is “just a little bit different”. The play revolves around the members of staff of the school both in the aftermath of the murder, and in episodes that occurred before it. It involves two sets, one representing the present and the other the past, which eventually merge as the flashbacks catch up with the present. The play is somewhat farcical and plays with stereotypes, involving a stoned hippie Geography teacher, an insane Art teacher, a manipulative English teacher, a bully of a PE teacher and a nerdy IT teacher. The writers see the staff room as a parallel to the playground. Director Alex Morgan says they are trying to drive home the point that “adults often try to portray themselves as above children, but really they are just as petty and the dynamic is similar.”

In this play “the audience is the detective.” Audience members will be asked to make predictions about the identity of the murderer at the intermission and will be interrogated by the investigating officers. In keeping with the Cluedo theme of the performance, one side of the tickets will be formatted to allow the audience to check off their guesses. Morgan and producer James Wilkinson say that in this way the play is “almost like a game.”

The play was initially conceived by Morgan, who started writing the play in April. At the beginning of this term, exec members Wilkinson, Gianni Laino and Calum Cheyne got involved in the writing process, and the version being performed next week is the result of a collaborative effort. Wilkinson says the process was “challenging but worthwhile”, as the play was rewritten over the busy exam period and was handled by a four-man exec. However, Morgan now feels so confident about the finished product that he plans to write his own work again.

Wilkinson says, “You could just do a play that has been done hundreds of times before, but you’re probably not going to do it as well as anyone else.” So they decided to write their own. Originally the writers hoped to use the staffroom as an allegory for the coalition government, but this idea evolved. They insist that the idea of the school as the setting was original at the time because they devised it before sitcom Campus was released. The intention in the preliminary stages was for the murder to be a by-product of the play rather than the thrust of the plot. Inevitably, the play turned into a murder mystery because they felt it was difficult to go wrong with such a popular genre. According to Morgan “the hardest bit about doing this thing was writing it in such a way that hopefully people won’t be sure who did it by the end.” He assures me that they have accomplished this.

In the Study with the Dagger is meant to be funny, satirical, and is not your typically dark murder mystery. Innovatively developed and cleverly staged, Cuth’s Drama’s play promises a night of entertaining intrigue.

In the Study with the Dagger is showing ONLY on Friday, June 17th at Saint Cuthbert’s Society Dining Hall.

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