To Kill a Koeksister
Written, directed and performed by Andrew Simpson
Venue: Kalk Bay Theatre
Until: January 25
Rating: ***


There are shows involving some audience participation, shows involving a great deal of audience participation, and shows like this one that depend exclusively on audience participation for their success – which explains the air of apprehension discernible on faces as people take their seats for To Kill a Koeksister.

They need not worry, however, as nobody is coerced into joining Andrew Simpson (aka Detective Louis) on stage, and exhibitionists are only too keen to do so, leaving everyone else free to sit back and enjoy the fun.

There is no shortage of that commodity in this lighthearted send-up of the ever-popular murder mystery genre – the tone is set at once by Simpson’s explanation of the title.

The victimised Koeksister is not an item of confectionery, but the female sibling of a chef (and not a very successful one at that). Murdered by eating a poisoned koeksister.

The only constant element in the plot is the fact of this woman’s murder, which has just taken place. For the rest, the process of investigation and identity of the murderer change every night, depending on an audience member’s random choice of numbered envelope containing the solution to the mystery. The whole exercise is like a many-handed parlour game.

As the director of this volatile show, Simpson is impressive: so much could go wrong, yet nothing does. He appears not only as the archetypal detective, announced by classic Pink Panther-themed music and complete with Clouseau-style accent; he also impersonates a feckless journalist named Daniel as a prelude to the investigation.

Energetic and versatile, this performer takes the participating audience and crime scenario firmly in hand to extract maximum enjoyment from the evening.

And there is never a dull moment.

Each member of the audience is handed a detective kit on entering the theatre, and as the evening progresses the contents are extracted and used according to instructions from Simpson.

Four envelopes equal four suspects, so when the dénouement arrives, the process of elimination reminds one of shows like Survivor as well as the de rigueur ending of Agatha Christie murder mysteries when the killer’s identity is revealed.

Good-natured collaboration from spectators (or suspects/victims/co-detectives, as the case may be), and confident direction of the proceedings with the occasional dash of black humour, generate uncomplicated entertainment that is ideal for a laid-back summer.