Review – A Deadly Dose (Play Dead London)

Last night I had the pleasure to attend another online murder mystery, this time run by Play Dead London. It’s a mystery run by the actors, with the guests (me included) attend over Zoom. They reached out to me after my previous review of an online mystery, and offered me a chance to take part. Being the mystery fan I am, I jumped at the chance, and here’s how it was for me.

The event image from the Play Dead London website

Setting The Scene

My invite came in my email with instructions of what to do and when, and when the time arrived I clicked the link and found myself in a Victorian mortuary with a variety of characters, all of whom were present to watch the autopsy – or dissection as it was then – of a man found recently dead. Things soon took a twist though when the aptly-named Inspector Slaughter arrived to tell us that one of the gawkers was in fact, the man’s murderer!

The detectives meet the suspects
The detectives meet the suspects…

He then let us know that we were invited along to solve the murder by interviewing the suspects. No time to lose, the game is afoot!

How It Works

If you’ve ever used the Zoom video conferencing system before, you’ll immediately be at home. For the uninitiated however, by using Zoom on your laptop or PC (tablets and phones don’t work as well for this) you connect to the show and watch the thing play out through all of the actors’ webcams. The detectives (you) have your cameras on too, so it’s very interactive.

After the introduction and prologue, we were told we can use Zoom’s Breakout Room feature to visit each of the suspects in their own location. This is the bit you can’t do on a phone, but if that’s your only choice, there is a guide present who can move you around if you tell them where you want to go.

Outrage! Scandal! Or have I just said the wrong thing?
Outrage! Scandal! Or have I just said the wrong thing?

At first this seemed daunting. I wasn’t having my hand held, being told where to go, what to listen to, or any of that. I had to use my own notes and theories, and see if I could solve the mystery. As soon as it started, all of those worries evaporated, and I absolutely love the feeling it gave the whole thing. It felt very personal, like each of us detectives was on a treasure hunt, darting from here to there, across London Bridge trying to put the pieces of the jigsaw together.

The Personal Touch

The actors are what made the whole thing shine for me. They addressed us each by name, and in character. The lady running the “boarding house” (heavy airquotes implied there!) called me Adam, but the Lord and Lady present addressed me as Mister Richards. A couple of times I tried to make one of them crack a grin, but no-one faltered. Play Dead London are a hard bunch to crack!

I wondered how it would work with other people bouncing around between suspects too. I worried it might become too busy, or noisy, but it didn’t. Everyone waited their turn to speak, and far from hindering my investigation, it actually helped me to join a room where someone else already was. They could be asking questions I hadn’t thought of, or following a lead I hadn’t stumbled on myself.

After our allotted time doing our detective bits, we were all gathered back together where some more story was told, and we each had a turn to ask one suspect, one more question. Again, this was a really nice touch that brought everyone back up to speed and meant we all had a reasonable chance of getting the solution right.

The Big Reveal

There was some great showmanship at the end. All the detectives had a couple of minutes to make their decision, then write their answer on their notebook, before revealing it to the room via the webcams. Then the inspector went around the suspects, laid out the case and revealed the culprit. I won’t spoil anything here, suffice to say I didn’t get it right, despite having nearly all the information I needed!

My Tarot-reading friend who sells some interesting things...
My Tarot-reading friend who sells some interesting things…

The cast finally broke character to thank us all individually, which was just another of those touches we never would have got in a stage performance, or something with more people. It made me sad to leave the meeting after sharing such a great hour with these strangers.

I thought initially that I didn’t have enough time to see everyone I could, although I realised afterwards that the time just flew by, and also that I wasted some time. I asked to have my Tarot read, thinking I might get some secret insights and clues, but it turns out it wasn’t, and despite a thoroughly pleasant reading, I’d just wasted another couple of minutes of my investigating. Oops!

In Closing

A Deadly Dose is absolutely brilliant. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it by yourself like I was, or in a small group, like others did. The actors clearly knew their trade, the characters were equal parts hysterical, loathsome and believable, and the whole thing was a blast. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who likes a mystery, or is looking for a different way to spend an hour one evening, now that the nights are drawing in.

After the show finished, I contacted Play Dead London just for my own interest to find out when the next one is. They were kind enough to invite me along to this one for free, but I’d happily spend my own money to do it again.

Embrace your inner Sherlock, Miss Marple or Columbo, and give it a go. You won’t regret it. You can find them over here.

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