Principal character in the hit BBC TV sitcom ‘Allo, ‘Allo! René Artois’ life became more complicated and traumatic when he found himself at the centre of a murder inquiry after Michelle Dubois of the Resistance was shot dead in the kitchen of Café René in the quiet rural village of Nouvion, France in 1943.
A number of possible suspects were identified. There was René himself; there was his wife, the dubious songstress Madame Edith; there was the voluptuous waitress Yvette Carte-Blanche, or the bungling gendarme Officer Crabtree (and his famous malapropisms), and the sinister chief of the local Gestapo Herr Flick. But who was the guilty party? Who committed the hideous crime?
That was the question posed to the party-goers at Blackpool Masonic Hall when After Dark Entertainments staged a murder mystery evening. 80 would-be sleuths interrogated the suspects after evidence was presented to them in three one-act scenes played out between courses of a sumptuous meal.
After each scene, the suspects mingled with the diners to answer prying questions from the investigation teams – but were the answers provided actual truths? That again was up to each investigating team to determine.
In an excellently-presented and action-packed programme, filled to the brim with humour, audience participation and nostalgic war-time songs, the cast of actors kept the revellers entertained throughout the evening.
As would be expected, the one-act scenes introduced the basic storyline and included the classic farce set-ups, physical comedy and visual gags, ridiculous fake accents, sexual innuendos, and a fast-paced running string of broad cultural clichés associated with the TV series. Knackwurst sausages were in abundance; the portrait of the Fallen Madonna by Van Klomp; Madame Fanny La Fan’s bedstead with ‘Ze flashing knobs’, and “’Allo, ‘allo, zis is Night’awk, are you receiving me”, plus a message-carrying homing duck – all were cleverly introduced into the mini-dramas.
The event was a major success, with revellers unanimous in their praise of the performances, the format of the evening, and the fun they had. The majority had got into the spirit of the evening, arriving in attire that depicted characters in the programme.
There were British airmen, Herr Flicks, French Resistance girls, naughty French waitresses (although a number were extremely masculine under the wigs and make-up), onion sellers, Monsieur Leclerc and Madame Fanny. All joined in the fun and frivolity to the full. Organiser of the event, master of Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship No 7692 Jim Coupe was delighted with the way the party-goers had entered the spirit of the evening and the enjoyment that they had derived from the tongue-in-cheek detective work.
Digesting the clues and deducing who the guilty party was, tested the investigatory skills of the teams. A diverse range of motives, opportunities and methods were proposed and vigorously debated by team members.
Nevertheless, the ‘Dickie-Tickers’ proved to be the super sleuths of the night. Headed by Blackpool Lodge of Fellowship’s secretary Phil Houldsworth, the team demonstrated their superiority as detectives. But classified as ‘clueless’ and awarded the ‘booby’ prize was airman Harry Waggett. Consoling himself with the maxim of, ‘it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part’, he confirmed that having fun was the primary goal.
There was, naturally, a more serious side to the proceedings as well. A customary raffle ensured that worthy causes were recognised and clearly supporting the view that the evening was a great success, a highly impressive £405 was raised for charity.
The evening was particularly memorable for one of the revellers however. While chatting with Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin, Elaine Blackburn mentioned that her father had been a member of Ashlar Lodge No 5154 and that he had been its master in 1976. Coincidentally, Ashlar Lodge happened to be meeting that very night and always eager to enrich someone’s life, John arranged for Elaine to meet the master of the lodge Bill Farrington and take her on a tour of the opulent lodge room in the Masonic hall.
Therein, Elaine sat in the master’s chair and was presented with a lodge summons bearing her father’s name Arthur Forrest Murphy and a record of his term of office as master of the lodge. It was a poignant moment for Elaine, so much so that she was unable to suppress her emotions. She was clearly moved by the experience.
But the reader is still left wondering who the murderer was! That remains a mystery; but it is no mystery however that, due to the success of the evening, similar nights will undoubtedly be arranged in the future.