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Guest Blog: Christian Loveless On Zoom-based Spoof Mystery Drama MURDER ON THE 28TH FLOOR

The interactive comedy is perfect for office parties this festive season

Guest Blog: Christian Loveless On Zoom-based Spoof Mystery Drama MURDER ON THE 28TH FLOOR
Murder on the 28th Floor

Co-artistic director Marie Hamilton and I founded District Theatre a year and a half ago while still at drama school, and our first show The Town was at the Drayton Arms Theatre last September. We make funny and often political shows - we don't have to do this, a tragicomedy documenting our experiences protesting for 60 days outside Westminster, is in currently development - and we love making work that lives in contradictions: happy rage, teary silliness, shining a light on our own hypocrisies.

Our new show, Murder on the 28th Floor, is a murder mystery in a similar format to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. Two investigators who've watched a few too many 80s cop shows find themselves in an abandoned office with a few 'temporary employees', all with strong regional accents, who start getting bumped off one by one. They've got to work out who the culprit is before they're the only ones left, but in all the chaos even start suspecting each other...

The audience is the staff who, back in March, populated the office, and who now watch two actors running around their desks in fake moustaches while humming the theme tune to Hawaii Five-0. They are also integral to the action - giving directions, interrogating suspects, and drawing e-fits of the possible culprit.

The idea was borne out of the frustration we both felt for the constraints of Zoom shows, and that we wanted to make something silly to counteract how desperately sad a lot of this year has been. When we're writing, we're always trying to make the other one laugh, and for this it worked especially well to subvert the serious nature of a crime drama.

In terms of inspiration, it would be remiss not to acknowledge Mischief Theatre and the guys behind Police Cops. They've both nailed the tone of high-stakes, hilarious action across various shows, and for Murder on the 28th Floor we wanted to emulate that. They had the benefits of having a live audience, so could play with space and make a set purpose-built for comedy, but we believed we could turn the Zoom camera format into an advantage.

Using two laptops, we can turn one camera off and the other on, and suddenly the audience is seeing a different person in a completely different location. It's almost a cross between TV and theatre in this respect, as we're always in control of what the audience sees and hears, which lends itself well to a murder mystery. We both play multiple characters, so this also means we have to make rapid costume changes - often only just out of shot! It's a really fun show to perform and, hopefully, to watch as well.

The show could be done at any time of year, but given November is just around the corner and Covid-19 is still very much a reality, we imagined offices would be looking for safe, online alternatives for their Christmas party. We're not an events company, but we believe we offer something unique: a fast-paced, hilarious show, with as much or little opportunity for audience interaction as the company would like, set in their office. It's the perfect hybrid of a night out at the theatre and a group call social, and it's for any workforce, big or small, looking for a morale boost heading into the festive season.

Murder on the 28th Floor runs 2 November-29 January, 2021

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