There is only one question that needs to be answered in the premiere of Monster Theatre’s Who Killed Gertrude Crump? at the Toronto Fringe Festival, and I’m sure we can all guess what that is. Speaking from beyond the grave, puppet master Agatha Christie, played with delightful madness by Tara Travis, unravels an unpublished murder mystery from her early days.
Ryan Gladstone’s script takes full advantage of murder mystery tropes, with twists at every turn: suspicious figures, secret passageways, lurid affairs, and more. He even quietly tosses in shout-outs for Agatha Christie fans, the most obvious being a bumbling detective with a French accent. Travis, as the lone performer, is left to bring each and every character – there are ten of them – to life, and she does this with gleeful exaggeration.
Overall I don’t see Who Killed Gertrude Crump? as trying anything new with its murder mystery parody — but in my opinion, who would want to? A murder mystery is my favourite comedy set up. The point is the mystery, not the message. Travis, for her part, is clearly at home in the spotlight, playing off her audience with knowing winks and nudges as she offers not-so-subtle clues.
Who Killed Gertrude Crump? dragged a bit in the middle after a strong start. Ten characters and the need to constantly offer new twists and turns translated into a lot of scenes where one character was accused of being the murderer and yet another connection was brought to light. After two or three accusations I was ready to move along to the reveal.
Ultimately, what I really took away from this show was the refreshing amount of fun I had watching Travis work the puppets. Travis knew exactly what the script required and delivered an entertaining little romp that made me smile. Even better is that I think this is a show that can be appreciated by a variety of ages. After all, doesn’t everybody want to know Who Killed Gertrude Crump?
Who Killed Gertrude Crump? plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave., at Wolseley)
July 06 at 03:30 PM
July 08 at 01:00 PM
July 09 at 11:15 PM
July 10 at 09:45 PM
July 11 at 04:00 PM
July 12 at 02:15 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Tara Travis and puppets courtesy Monster Theatre.