It is the 1920s in the buzzing metropolis of New York and cyanide peroxide is the emancipated woman's weapon of choice. It cures a range of symptoms: a cheating husband, a risqué affair, or an easy escape from the grips of marriage. It really does not come as a surprise when John Hartsby is found dead in his office late at night, a martini glass in front of him giving off an unmistakable smell of bitter almonds. Accusations immediately fly at Hartsby's widow Rose (Alice Corrigan) who has had the overnight fortune of inheriting his secret Smokey Blues Speakeasy.


However, there seems to be more to the plot of Cyanide in the Speakeasy than meets the eye. This is why the audience is called to the hideaway venue near Elephant & Castle to investigate as undercover detectives. Once assembled outside the building by their superior, Inspector Rutherford (Sam Emmerson), audience members are equipped with a notebook, pen and business card and led to the secret back door. Their mission is to infiltrate the venue and interrogate the four main suspects identified by the Inspector, who, for the remainder of the experience takes the reigns and drives all major moments in the story.


Cyanide in the Speakeasy is a well-plotted and competent murder mystery that fully embodies the notion of immersive theatre. Through six rooms that are spread out across two floors, the eager detectives can move about and converse with the four suspects who each have their own motif for murder: the widowed Rose, the victim's crooked stock-broker Nick Carterway (Chris J Railton), the bartender James Ratney (Richard Delroy), and the clumsy receptionist Daisy Cordon (Lauren Shotton).


Rather refreshingly, the audience's interrogations are not constrained by the actors' scripts but appear to be friendly chit-chat. It is up to the audience members themselves to ask the right questions and weave their way through the net of clues – or to simply kindle a friendship in the dimly-lit venue.


Clues can be found everywhere and (nearly) everything is up for an investigative touch. Letters can be read, drawers can be opened, and locks can be cracked. From anagrams to riddles, Cyanide in the Speakeasy comes with all the tropes of an engaging murder mystery. A mysterious venue full of nooks and crannies, suspects that are only too willing to engage in gossip or a quick game of blackjack, and a shot at solving a murder - Cyanide in the Speakeasy entertains as an engaging night out.

It runs until 15 April. Tickets: here.



Review: Shirley Both