2020- What a weird old year!
As we move finally into 2021 (or what may become 2020 2: Here we go again!) it creates a moment of reflection for us all. Here at Moonstone, we started the year like most others, saying Happy New Year to each other when driving back home from a gig. Last year was in a restaurant where we kept warm outside with the petroleum-filled steam from the kitchen, changed in a shipping container, and being challenged to a fist-fight by a group who don't understand the word quiet (Oh how we miss the general public, honest!).
As we drove to various homes around the M25, it had us thinking the usual 'what would this year entail?' Would we tour in another country again? Be there to help celebrate more birthdays? Expand on our hotel portfolio? Finally get around to developing the stage show version of our Dining experiences? Maybe find a way to stop people from drawing oddly shaped phalluses in our notepads?
Well, we will tell you for nothing now, anyone who said by this time next year our catchphrase would become "You're on mute. No, I said you're on mute, you need to hit the unmute button" would have been struck off for being considered intoxicated at work. Recalling back to February and the beginning of March, we were beginning to hit our stride, back at our wonderful residency at Boisdale of Mayfair, fresh off a Valentine's Day show for the Hawth Theatre and venturing up to brand new venues, including Blackpool Pleasure Beach. However, something felt a little off in the air, with the talk of Covid-19 beginning to take hold in Italy and across Europe.
Two weeks before the UK lockdown, I was over in Barcelona, the trip seemed perfectly normal and all well, apart from on Wednesday the first email from a client came in, wanting to cancel due to Covid concerns. The Thursday morning something felt different in the air in Barcelona, as if something bad was coming, almost like the first 5 minutes of a disaster movie when they see the tea shake in the cup from the floor shuddering.
By the time of early afternoon Thursday, as my flight landed in to Gatwick, I had received a further 7 emails from clients cancelling/ asking to postpone their events, another 3 as I drove back home. By the end of the week, all of our events for the next 2 months had disappeared. Spain by the end of the weekend had entered its first lockdown.
However, 2 bookings at remained for that week, our residency in Mayfair and a lovely venue up in Ipswich. A very surreal experience looking back, driving a team of 5 Actors in one car, everyone paranoid to let out the tiniest of coughs, then squishing 5 packs of toilet roll into the boot as London had run dry was not your typical Friday night highlight for a group of Actors. Like many others in the major cities, knowing a lockdown here was looming, I returned home to Devon to be with family (and also where Moonstone began its roots), when lockdown began we thought, like many others, it would only be for a couple of weeks, so we needed to pass the time somehow.
w days of fighting with OBS and a laptop that wanted to explode, the rest is history. With the help of wonderful actors, we created the Solve-a-Long Whodunnit series, which proved so popular we had to do a Series 2!
Armed with a go-pro for the only camera options, the new script masking taped to the wall and a lamp rested on top of a washing basket, somehow we were able to create some magic and escapism for the 120+ regulars and new Sluethers who found their way to use throughout the series.
Throughout the lockdown it was important to try and find the silver lining for sanity, and for us, we had the opportunity to create weird and wonderful cases we'd never dreamed of being able to do. From
the likes of Mr. Wobbly's Murdertime Spectacular set in a Children's TV studio to Bippity, Boppity, Buried! where it was the ultimate hybrid of Panto, Fairytale's, and Murder Mystery. Our Moonstone family went above and beyond every week, delighting the audience with the wit and skill they brought to the table (well screen), alongside finding a way to give you that interactive experience you would have at one of our much-loved dining experiences. Having the most bizarre conversations about Train Boy, Mr. Buttons the puppet, how heavy is a Badger, and Impromptu lectures of Moth mating rituals, all whilst trying to solve the case along the way.
Using those 14 weeks, we found a way to refine our online skills and harness that magic of live improv for people to enjoy. From here we found a way to survive. With two more public show specials at Halloween & Christmas, we muddled our way through the year by helping companies keep their team feeling motivated and connected whilst working from home. Alongside corporate entertainment/ team building, we've also been running events for Birthday parties, charity groups and virtual hen/ stag do's.
As to what the future brings over the next few months? Haven't got the foggiest clue, it seems online is our only way to go for now, but we hope that more people will want to join us on the Investigation and enjoy the chance to escape for an hour or two. Because in our world; Brexit is an auto-correct for Breakfast, Corona is an overpriced beer, you would only wear a mask if you're a Mexican luchador and social distancing is for people with halitosis.
From us here at Moonstone Murder Mysteries, we wish you a Happy New Year. Please remember to stay safe, and we hope to see you soon back on the case.
Sam Emmerson (Inspector Rutherford)
Creative Director, Moonstone Murder Mysteries