Cast of Murder at The Empress? Chris Froese

Murder comes with a question mark

Victoria’s Empress hotel acts as backdrop to a potential murder where nothing is as it seems.

A stalwart of Edwardian architecture, Victoria’s Fairmont Empress Hotel, better known as The Empress, has a long, colourful history in B.C.’s capital city of Victoria.

Not only have dignitaries such as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II stayed there, along with a long list of celebrities who have noshed on scones and sipped Murchie’s tea in the famed dining room, there are also some murders, and mysteries, that surround the hotel.

The Empress’ famed architect, Francis Rattenbury, came to an unseemly end when he was killed by his lover’s husband, who whacked him on the head with a carpenter’s mallet.

The hotel is even rumoured to have a few ghosts: One is said to be chambermaid Lizzie McGrath, who plunged six storeys to her death in 1909. Then there’s the spirit  of a dead man who is said to be buried in the hotel’s now cemented-in underground tunnel, and the old woman who haunts the sixth floor, asking for help in finding her room.

There was also the mysterious, wealthy eccentric who lived in the hotel’s entire upper floor that was closed to the public in 1978.

Her story is about to be told when Murder at the Empress?, a fictional play that is a theatrical look inside the murder mystery genre, is staged by the Tragically Comic Players at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Saturday, Nov. 5.

“In truth, there was a millionaire heiress living on that floor at the time, but that is where the reality ends and the illusion begins in Murder at the Empress?,” said local playwright/director Phil Wagner, who wrote the play in 1978.

It was performed professionally in Victoria around that time, and was last presented in Jasper, Alta. (as Murder at the Lodge) in 1983.

“It reads pretty modern, but if you listen carefully, you can tell it’s from the ‘70s,” said Wagner. “The fun thing about the show is that you get to see the actors perform the other characters on the stage. They actually role play each other mostly at the end, which makes it fun to see if the actors can pull it off. They are pretty good at imitating each other.”

Described as a light comedy, with lots of thriller elements, the mystery features several Okanagan actors last seen in the comedy Lend Me a Tenor at Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre this past season.

Emily Heayn (also seen in Powerhouse’s Grease), Ashley Plomp, Chris Froese and Matt Brown, who directed Tenor and was last seen at the Powerhouse as the Old Woman in the Shoe in Jack and the Beanstalk, all have a role to play.

Murder at the Empress? also features Starling Taylor, last seen at Kelowna’s Bumbershoot Theatre in Munschapalooza.

Heayn portrays the mysterious wealthy eccentric who lives “upstairs” in the hotel, while Plomp is the hotel’s vibrant public relations manager who is suspicious of everyone.

Froese, who played the hilarious bellhop in Tenor, here portrays Victoria police inspector Randolph, who just happens to have a flare for the theatrical himself.

And Brown plays to type portraying a professional actor who also happens to be a compulsive thief, while Taylor is the cunning rising actress who loves to role play nearly everyone she encounters.

“It’s been great working with them,” said Wagner who this time last year directed his adapted version of Ichabod and the Headless Horseman at Powerhouse, and also presented his abstract play What’s Cooking? (George’s Last Dream) at the Schubert Centre during Vernon Winter Carnival earlier this year.

“The Performing Arts Centre is such as nice theatre, we just wanted to present a play there this time. We’re hoping to take this on the road after. The set isn’t elaborate. You get a feel for The Empress with the lighting and furniture.”

The Tragically Comic Players present Murder at the Empress? at the Performing Arts Centre, Saturday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $25/adult and $22 senior/student at the Ticket Seller box office, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca. The play is recommended for those 10 years old and up.

 

Just Posted

Vernon Vipers shut out Penticton Vees in first game of home-and-home

James Porter Jr. stopped all 42 shots, Seiya Tanaka-Campbell scored his first BCHL goal Friday night

Conservation officers on the hunt for North Okanagan moose poachers

Officers execute search warrant Friday morning, investigation continues

Vernon Montessori students re-gift to raise funds

Holiday Gift Shop fundraiser supports Project Christmas Elf, teaches sustainability

Sagmoen’s lawyer argues ‘abuse of power’ in police search

The trial of Curtis Sagmoen continued at the Vernon Law Courts on Friday

Vernon’s All Saints Church sets table for less fortunate

Fifth annual Festive Street Lunch will take place at All Saints’ Church tomorrow

‘Where the miracles live’: Shane Koyczan narrates powerful KGH Foundation video

‘There is more to being alive than just our data plans… there’s our plans’

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

WATCH: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

The fire was reported around 2 a.m. Saturday morning

UPDATE: Highway 1 reopens after vehicle incident near Boston Bar

Initial reports of a jack-knifed semi truck had closed both directions of the highway

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Most Read