Screaming bloody murder!

If you have read any of these blogs, you will know that I am a shallow woman and that my life has been largely dedicated to the pursuit of life, liberty and FUN. You may also suspect that entertainment, chez me, includes a life-long addiction to mystery stories.

And now, a dream come true: I am actually playing an on-stage role in a mystery. The play is called Deliver Us From Evil, and it opens tonight (Tuesday, April 19 at 8 pm at the Ottawa Little Theatre, playing till May 7). This is not comedy, I admit, but it does have other charms: lots of pouring rain, blood and tolling church bells. The play is set in an English village vicarage. I play the role of a county nibnob with a long pedigree and no cash to speak of. In my spare time, “I produce” for the local theatre company. Talk about art imitating life!

Let me confess: this is not my first encounter with murder. Though I have no criminal record to speak of, I have devoured something in the order of 3 million mystery stories (at a conservative estimate) since first learning to read. You remember that first book, don’t you, at the dawn of time? “See Dick run. See Spot jump.” Gripping stuff. I think I was about mid-way through first grade when I first began to long for a little literary mayhem, just to move the plot along and maybe get rid of that prize twit, Dick.

But really, what exactly do we like about rape, murder and grievous bodily harm in literary form? Sometimes, I admit, I’ve overdone it. I took a mystery with me on holiday once, when I went to stay with an uncle and aunt in England. The first night, I read a little before going to sleep, put the book down on the bedside table, switched off the light and – next thing I knew – was face to face with a large, black figure looming up out of the dark. “Are you a murderer,” I recall asking in a quivering voice. “I’m sorry to say,” the monster replied in a deep, throaty snarl, as he advanced with hands upraised, “that I AM!”

The next thing I knew, I was sitting up in bed, wide awake, shaking with terror and screaming aloud. Just as I realized it had been a dream, I became aware of faint movement in the next room, the sound of a door opening and footsteps in the hall. My uncle – a shaken man – knocked hesitantly at the door to ask if I had a burglar in there and was there anything he could do to help?

Perhaps I should have given up murder then and there. But I didn’t. I went big time a few years later when I invested in a packaged mystery game and invited seven friends for a seven-course murder. Following the instructions in the package, I dressed as a high-class Chicago call girl from Prohibition Days. I wore a long, black satin slip, with rhinestones at my ears and throat and pink satin mules with ostrich feather trim on the feet. I looked wonderful, but that did not save me from ruin.

Unfortunately, in those days, I had not yet discovered the winning idea of “potluck,” and over the next three or four hours I served a seven-course dinner to seven raucous guests. I soon gave up even trying to stay abreast of the evolving plot. I don’t know whether you’ve ever played any of these mystery games, but you have to turn the page of your little booklet at intervals to discover more clues, which various characters are then obliged “to enter into evidence” (that is, work into the conversation).

The first problem was an ill-considered guest list. Oh, they were having fun all right, but they were very disobedient and insisted on making up their own story! We staggered along in increasing disarray, and I must confess that my mind (or the tattered remnants thereof) was more on timing the fish and whipping the cream than it was on murder and mayhem. Finally: it was time for dessert. I slung the last plate on the table and slipped into my seat with the welcome knowledge that now, at last, I could concentrate on plot and maybe whip the rebels into line. Too late. I turned the page and there, at the top in big black letters, was this unwelcome message: “YOU ARE THE MURDERER.”

Words cannot express my horror (but don’t worry, I’ll try!). First, I thought of my anxious mother, who had always urged me to go straight. Then, I reflected on the fact that – having paid literally no attention that night to the plot as it developed – I had no idea whom I had murdered or why! I was facing a pretty bleak few moments, I realized, during the denouement. There was always the insanity plea, of course, and that struck me as a pretty solid defence. I don’t quite remember how the evening ended, but “shambles” is probably an accurate description.

You’d think I would have given up murder after that, but no: here I am back in the saddle again – this time in a play. Oh well, at least this time I have a good grip on the plot, and I have memorized most of the lines so kindly provided by the playwright. It’s going to be fun – not LOL fun (and that means “Laugh Out Loud,” in case you are not operating at my level in the language of the social media: I do try to keep up), but entertainment nevertheless. My only regret is that, after all the practice I’ve had, I am not allowed to scream – not even once. I am, in this sense, a wasted resource.

If murder is your cup of tea, do come and see the play. I am aware, however, that we all find fun in different places. This thought occurred me recently, when I was standing glumly in the rain in a nearby park watching Juno the Dog play with her pals. I had forgotten a hat or umbrella, so there I was, hands in pockets, streaming with cold wet misery. Not exactly a picture of delight.

Meanwhile, Juno the Dog was mud-wrestling, a sport that she takes to entirely new levels of delight. I have to say, she was in a bit of a pickle at that particular moment. She was spread-eagled on the wet ground while Bentley – who, until a recent encounter with a surgeon, was a sex-mad Lab – licked her fundaments. Naala, a big blond female, had one of Juno’s back legs between her snarling teeth and was worrying it enthusiastically. Jack, the big white-faced Bernese giant, was on top of the pile and apparently trying to chew my puppy’s ear off. Meanwhile, Juno’s little face and bright eyes were peering out at me through the fur with what I interpreted as an appeal. I waded in with a stern word. All for naught. A minute later, Juno was up and chasing Jack (and Bentley was chasing her) and it had begun again.

The thing is, Juno is a party girl. She knows how to have fun. We have that in common, though personally I keep my distance from Bentley, and it is some time since I have mud-wrestled. But here’s the thing: if you would like to have some fun that does NOT involve mud, try to work Deliver Us From Evil into your schedule over the next three weeks. It is on stage now at the Ottawa Little Theatre. Call 613-233-8948 for tickets.

And oh my God! Tonight is opening night! Eeeeeeekkkk!!!!!!