This Mortal Coil is a fun 6-part audio murder mystery by James Beagon, performed by the enterprising Edinburgh-based Aulos Productions. The play’s existence is symbolic of theatre’s resilience and ability to carry on despite the current circumstances, with the first two parts released as part of Buxton Festival Fringe’s online programme via SoundCloud, as well as the company’s own website. Performing remotely, the young company have achieved much of the ensemble atmosphere of recent successes, such as Antigone na h’Éireann and Gobland for the Goblins.
The ingredients are strong. The scene is the final dress rehearsal for a (not very good) play –One Last Kiss– and just about everybody involved is constantly grumbling to, or about, the unappreciated writer-director, Paul. Our guide is narrator Elissa, and we quickly discover that the cast and crew are composed of the feckless, idle, arrogant, vain, incompetent and discontented. When a murder interrupts proceedings, all are forced to wonder whodunit? Nobody has an alibi, and most have a motive for the murder.
Between prop emergencies, rapiers, a chaise-longue, the desire for chips, and problems with lighting and set design, the theatre world seems rife with rivalries and resentments. Beagon is on target most of the time and the references are excellent and familiar. With a flirtatious theatre manager, Beth, panicking about the finances, and a self-important theatre critic, Quentin, the audio play teems with broad and unmistakable characterisation.
As we reach the end of Part 2, things are developing intriguingly. Helpfully, Elissa remains central as the investigating detective, Bailey is an old drama student friend. His offer of Jammie Dodgers to encourage her help in the investigation is comic, but also plays to the running gag that actors may be short of money and are easily appeased.
Beagon’s script sets up intriguing possibilities for the remaining parts. The play has plenty of light-hearted momentum, and is an undemanding listen. The voice-acting is engaging, with actors quickly and successfully able to establish character and mood. Among the most successful vocal talents on air include Sophie Harris (Elissa), Serena Doran (Holly), Thomas Mugglestone (Bailey) and Grace Gilbert (Beth). Similarly, Jessica Kelly’s music is genre-perfect, with just the right combination of ‘dastardly deeds afoot’ and whimsy. I look forward to the upcoming episodes.
This Mortal Coil is released every Friday via Aulos Production’s SoundCloud.
Donations to Aulos Productions’ Crowdfunder project can be made here with donations going towards supporting the cast and crew, as well as future audio projects.