Review: Christmas Panto With a Touch of Murder

“This pantomime was able to humanise even the most lifeless of characters.” Charlotte Ambrose reviews Murder! A Christmas Pantomime for SCENE. 4 stars.

(Image: Toby Popov)

The Cluedo-inspired pantomime, Murder!, is not like your typical Aladdin or Cinderella Christmas panto.

Cluedo is a fairly straightforward game: after Mr Black’s suspicious death, players take turns moving around the board to uncover the murderer, the weapon they used, and the room where it took place. 

What the instruction manual doesn’t tell you is that the game normally gets quite heated, with players throwing cards, insults, and wild accusations across the table. 

Murder! neatly condensed all this chaos into one short performance.  

In this pantomime, some friends decide to play the board game together and then are suddenly transported inside the game. After finding the real Mr Black murdered (spoiler alert!), it was up to them to find clues and solve the mystery. 

This pantomime put an interesting spin on the much-loved family game, adding twists, turns, and a few Derwent College-inspired teases along the way. 

During the interval, the audience was encouraged to guess who we thought the murderer was via a Google Form. This added something unique to the performance, and it was refreshing to see a pantomime divert from the usual happily-ever-after fairytale format. 

For all its absurd sub-plots and comically flamboyant characters, this pantomime still maintained a level of actuality, featuring narratives on a broken marriage, under-appreciation in the workplace, and the struggles of post-graduate employment. 

Together, these themes grounded the play and prevented it from being just a fanciful story about out-of-touch elites at a dinner party.  

The actors turned people like Colonel Mustard and Mrs Peacock from mere pieces on a board to distinctive and fundamentally real characters, breathing life into each by giving them individual backstories. 

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the pantomime gave more time to exploring Mr Black’s character. In the Cluedo game, Mr Black is an unknown figure, a rather insignificant instrument whose untimely death is just the set-up for the real fun to begin. 

Instead of keeping him as a minor character, Murder! really explored his personality, giving him a leading role in the production. He wasn’t just a dead-pan aristocrat whose only value came from his dramatic death. 

Throughout the pantomime, I watched as Mr Black was personified from a one-dimensional board piece into a living and complex human, capable of both good and bad.

His character arc has been well-overdue and it’s impressive that this pantomime was able to humanise even the most lifeless of characters. 

As the cast delivered their final bows, ‘Murder on the Dance Floor’ played, marking the perfect end to this production.

Murder! incorporated catchy songs and killer dance moves into a short performance. 

For anyone who, like me, prides themselves on winning Cluedo and finding the murderer quickly, watching this will humble you in the best possible way and re-inspire your love for the game.