Review – The Hawke Papers

Aug 13 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩  Enjoyable murder mystery

Meet the suspects: Emmeline Smith. Photo © Produced Moon

Meet the suspects: Emmeline Smith. Photo © Produced Moon

Laughing Horse@The Blind Poet (Venue 271)
Mon 5 – Sun 25 August, 2013
Review by Mark Bolsover

Edinburgh is the setting for young local company Produced Moon’s engaging late-nineteenth century period murder mystery, playing at the Blind Poet.

The audience become detectives in the mystery and are initially met by William Watkins (an effective, understated performance by Fred Fergus, who guides the audience well throughout), who entreats them to clear his uncle of the charge of murder.

While Fergus is charming, there is a certain dearth of detail in his introduction and more could have been done to establish the historical context of the piece, as well as the space the audience is about to enter. It eventually emerges that they are entering the the murder scene in the house of Dr Hawke – but more could be done to establish character, the setting, and the scenario.

To go into too much detail at the outset would bring the obvious risk of sabotaging dramatic and narrative development. However more back story while presenting deeper, clearer portraits of the principal figures (and particularly that of the Doctor) would help.

The energy of the piece and the engagement of the audience develops nicely, aided in no small part by the promptings of Fergus and two strangely-cockney police officers played by Dave Bernhard and Greg Lass. A more detailed opening gambit would help to raise the stakes from the outset and allow the actors to build a stronger, instant rapport with the audience.

The company make basic use of the (limited) space of The Blind Poet with the small audience (maximum 17) initially seated at tables around the edge of a space in front of a small, raised stage. This area becomes somewhat cramped and although later in the piece the suspects are ranged around the space for the audience to question, there is at potential to use the space more interestingly.

The young cast all give charming, solid and well-maintained performances and the costumes are excellent, with good attention to detail. Despite initial awkwardness – and reservation on the part of the audience – the details of the unfolding plot and the clever use of props draw the audience in. This immersive piece draws its effectiveness and energy – if the audience of detectives are, indeed, savvy enough to unravel the clues – from the interesting ethical dilemma presented by its (potential) dénouement.

A solid and engaging immersive murder mystery from a young company with clear potential.

Running time 1hr
Mon 5 – Sun 25 August 2013
Daily 11.00am.
Venue 271, Laughing Horse@The Blind Poet, 36 West Nicolson St, EH8 9DD
Non-ticketed, free entry, donate on exit event. Audience capacity 15-17 so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Details on EdFringe:
Produced Moon website:


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Comments (1)

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  1. Tom says:

    This was hugely enjoyable and we think the only free venue event at 11a.m. for adults. Being able to cross-examine the suspects and search for clues turned us all into amateur detectives and kept the cast on their toes. All of the actors stayed in character despite close questioning and ones early disbelief was quickly suspended by the effective and true performances.