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Murder they wrote
By Jim Murphy, October 21 2002

Interactive drama as a jigsaw puzzle is maybe the best description for German director Uwe Mengel's intriguing slant on a murder story in which the audience dictates the play.

The first thing you see, on display from 5pm-7pm, is the prostrate body of a young woman in a pool of blood. The murder victim is Zhen Ling, and four people who know her story are seated separately in cubicles, ready to talk earnestly about her and themselves - her sister, Li Ling; a close friend, Claire; Zhen Ling's former boyfriend, Ryan; and his sister, Stella. One of the quartet admits to the killing.

Ask them questions and gradually you form a picture of the crime, their relationships with the victim and their feelings about one another.

For each audience member it is an individual experience . The information comes in snippets and in random order, depending on what questions are asked and the way (and how often) you choose to move between the four cubicles. Some viewpoints conflict, so decide which is the more likely. You would love to get it all - but, short of the ability to be in four places at once, no one is likely to. The lack of any neat resolution and the inevitability of not finding some pieces of the jigsaw contributes, oddly enough, to Lifeline 's air of realism, reinforced by the conviction of the young cast in their well-prepared improvisations. At the performance reviewed, Ming-Zhu Hii took the acting honours for her subtle infusion of emotional undercurrents as Li Ling, but who is to say that at other shows, and with different audience stimuli, Eva Parkin (Stella), Hamish Michael (Ryan) or Vanessa Case (Claire) might not do the same?

Bravo to Kathleen Murphy, who lies motionless as the corpse for two hours before prying eyes - no mean achievement.



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