I grew up watching Angelia Lansbury as crime writer Jessica Fletcher solving the hundreds of murders that dogged her wherever she went in Murder, She Wrote. Fortunately, I’ve never watched it since then so I can fully appreciate the joys of Solve-Along-A-Murder, She Wrote – an interactive comedy show in which the audience try to work out who the killer is in a classic episode. But it is so much more than just a screening: compère and creator Tim Benzie, dressed in some of Jessica Fletcher’s signature outfits, talks us through the episode with jokes, behind-the-scenes trivia and lots of entertaining insights into the world of the cult TV series.
Benzie – a self-confessed “super fan”, or “Fangela” – is touring with a variety of different versions of the show, each based on a different episode. I first saw it at a large venue where we tackled “Broadway Malady” – a gloriously camp story set against the staging of a musical, starring legendary actors Vivian Blaine and Milton Berle. But for my second outing, I caught it at the more intimate Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London where this theatrical comedy show originated. Here, the episode was just as camp, with the puzzle in the title, “Who Threw the Barbitals in Mrs Fletcher’s Chowder?” – apparently voted the second most popular episode ever.
It is set in Jessica’s home town of Cabot Cove (which has the terrifying rate of 149 murders per 100,000 inhabitants) and features regulars Tom Bosley and William Windom. The guests are not as well known as other episodes but, by the end of the show, we have been entertained with all kinds of fun facts about them. Benzie explores the idea that the most famous guest in a TV crime series is often the murderer, using a purpose-built “Fameometer” that evolves into the “Suspicionometer” as the audience races to solve the crime. With spot prizes and easy-going audience interaction, it all adds up to a glorious fun-filled celebration of the TV series, whether you’re a fan or have somehow managed never to watch it before.
Tour dates at solvealongamurdershewrote.com.