A short while back a friend and I attended a murder mystery dinner at Foxwood Theatre. This is one of Johannesburg’s new theatre venues, situated in the old gatehouse of one of city’s historic old homes in 5th Street, Houghton. Actually it’s more Killarney; just behind the American Consulate which is opposite the Killarney Mall.

There is adequate parking for the dinner theatre set up which accommodates around 48 people at tables. There is only one toilet in the main building and none available to the public at the gatehouse. These facilities are not a problem for the small audience, but something to consider for bigger ones – the theatre can seat 120 in cinema style seating.

We were served a vegetable soup, followed by a quality buffet table, and dessert. The dinner is excellent, although on the night we attended some wicked person had burned the baked dessert then merely cut the burnt part away. The taste had already permeated the entire thing. If I’d been good and had the fresh fruit I would never have known.

The murder mystery, The Strange Case of Hester Cilliers, set in Edwardian Johannesburg, is directed by Clive Rodel and written by Paul Spence, who plays the investigator, “lately of London”. His pronunciation of Afrikaans places and names adds much humour. Annie Robinson plays Julia Beaufort. Seated at the dinner table that murderous night were Henry Beaufort, a Johannesburg randlord and Julia, his wife.

There were also the hosts; Fleetwood Rawthorne, an Australian diamond dealer; Gerrit Olivier, an ostrich farmer and Maria, his wife; Lady Eva Hochenheim, the hosts’ widowed neighbour; and, finally, Grey Beaufort, the very camp nephew of the randlord. Each has a motive for the murder.

On the night of the murder the menu was somewhat different from the one we consumed, and one finds it printed on the menu. They started with King Edward Potted Lobster with Hunter’s Stuffing, moved on to Buckingham Roast Devilled Goose and a Soufflé Rothschild with The Queen’s Custard.

Between the courses the drama is enacted for our pleasure, titillation and education. We are given the dirty, slimy, grimy facts and required to decide who we think the murderer may be. Much hilarity ensues. The “denouement” (which is the fancy word for “the mystery is explained and the truth is told”) takes place and coffee and port is served.

This is a delightfully different way of spending an evening out. It would be suitable for a birthday party, anniversary, or a corporate social event, although bookings are accepted for small parties as well. Each party gets their own table, so my friend and I were seated at a table for two, while the largest party on our evening seemed to be a table for ten.

The Strange Case of Hester Cilliers is performed on Friday and Saturday. The run has been extended to mid-December.

Highly recommended.

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