Try solving a murder mystery with this online play
Exercise your detective skills with BODY X The Culprit a new online murder-mystery play by BODY X Productions. (Photo: BODY X Productions)

Try solving a murder mystery with this online play

If you are a murder mystery fan and love cracking a good case, don’t miss BODY X The Culprit — the latest in a series of immersive, interactive murder-mystery productions by theatre practitioners Danny Yeo and Li Xie, which runs from 9 to 13 September 2020.

BODY X was first presented by Yeo and Li in 2014 as a “choose-your-own-adventure” theatrical experience. Instead of playing out on a stage, the performance took place in a building, with three to four scenes unfolding simultaneously in different rooms. Audiences were free to move among the rooms, interact with each other and try their hand at solving the murder mystery. Their first production in 2014 sold out, with positive reviews praising the format and performance, and the second edition in 2016 was popular amongst all ages.

This year, their third edition had to take a digital format due to COVID-19. Fret not, with the integration of Zoom into their practice, they have recreated the immersive, in-person experience of earlier versions as faithfully as possible.

The scene for BODY X The Culprit: a regular kopitiam that one might spot in their neighbourhood. The time: mid-1980s during an economic crisis in Singapore. The mystery: a regular patron found dead outside the coffee shop in the early hours.

As the play unfolds, the audience will be able to venture into different spaces, such as the alley behind the coffee shop, by clicking on links to the spaces at their own pace and in any order.. In each space, actors will be performing live and the audience can interact with them and each other.

Bringing the theatrical experience online, however, has not been without its challenges. Yeo says: “Artistically, we are recreating the same physical concept in a virtual venue. Logistically, it is quite a challenge for us as mastering digital technology requires a lot of training.”

Actor Melody Chan, who plays the detective in the play, adds: “Performing live online requires a lot more imagination as you cannot see the audience’s faces and reactions, so you cannot respond accordingly.”

Still, the essence of the immersive theatrical experience is preserved, says Li. “The essence of theatre is the collective presence of a community, and audience members are all present to witness, discuss, share and debate their experiences in real time, while seeking the truth, the identity of the killer.”

Indeed, the thrill of solving the mystery and “the autonomy to make choices for themselves and follow the characters they want to follow to discover truths,” will appeal to audiences, says actor Oliver Chong, who was also the writer and set designer for this production.

For first-timers keen to try this experience, art and camera director Ric Liu offers this tip: “Stay open and curious. The experience is not solely about solving the murder mystery, but also having fun by being immersed in it.”

Get your tickets to BODY X The Culprit here.

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