A few years ago I was on a road trip to the Victoria Fringe Festival, where I saw (among many other shows) HOUDINI’S LAST ESCAPE from Monster Theatre. Featuring the wonderful Chris Bange as Houdini, it also starred Tara Travis as his wife Bess, and she was just faboo in that show. So I was pretty stoked to hear that she would be hitting up this year’s Ottawa Fringe with a brand new show, written by Ryan Gladstone (who also penned HOUDINI). It was very high on my list of things to see, and today I finally got to check it off that list.

The latest is a murder mystery with a serious (well, okay, not so serious) twist, WHO KILLED GERTRUDE CRUMP? Set up as an early, unpublished work of an acclaimed mystery novelist, Travis herself appears as said writer and plays the story out before our eyes, with the aid of nine or ten charismatic puppets, romping about a sprawling puppet-rific set. Taking place in a secluded island hotel during a terrible storm (whoops, there goes the boat for the mainland guess we’re all stuck here!), a disparate cast of misfits arrive by invitation, only to discover that celebrity authoress Gertrude Crump has been done in at her desk. Was it the caretaker? Was it the resentful Mister Fox? Or bitter Scotch governess Miss Hardcastle? Can YOU find the clues to solve the mystery..?

The cast (besides Tara Travis) of WHO KILLED GERTRUDE CRUMP? (pic by Jim Travis)
The cast (besides Tara Travis) of WHO KILLED GERTRUDE CRUMP? (pic by Jim Travis)

Well, you’ll have good fun trying, as Tara Travis is a smashing and quick-witted host AND performer, deftly handling her puppet cast while simultaneously lending voices to the bickering lot of them. Somewhere amidst all the hubbub she manages several set changes, a few boat rides, and several bodies later a smashing resolution with a marvelous twist. Aided by a cool soundtrack and sound/light effects, the talented Miss Travis is an eminently enchanting scamp of a host, carrying us all willingly along through the funniest murder in a good long while. And how she manages to keep her byzantine puppet cast in check is beyond me. Just another mystery, I suppose…do yourself a favour and try and solve it yourself at her next performance. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

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