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Closing in for the kill; Dan Mitchell's first play gives murder the Big Brother treatment, as Matt Thomas found out.

Byline: Matt Thomas

HOW do you commit a murder when your every waking, and most of your sleeping, moments are being recorded? That's the mystery at the heart of the new multimedia comedy drama from undertaker-turned-comic Dan Mitchell - And The Killer Is? Set in the Big Brother-style gameshow world of Spy House, the play - which opens at Chapter Arts Centre on Monday - is Mitchell's first foray into the world of theatre.

Typically for the man behind the long-running Drones Comedy Club, which specialises in bringing its spotlight to bear on the outrageous and unusual side of humour, he's taking no prisoners in his dissection of reality TV.

"Given that it's the last series of Big Brother, or at least it's supposed to be and we're all hoping that's the case, it seemed like an ideal time to drive the final nail into the coffin," he says.

"You can still get a lot of good gags out of the show, which is a good thing comedically speaking, but a bad thing for society at large, since it shows exactly how strong a stranglehold it has on our culture." However, a distaste for crass TV programmes isn't the only motivating force behind And The Killer Is? "The concept for the show grew out of a night I've been doing for about a year now called Dirtbox," he explains.

"It's a comedy night, presented as if it were a night in front of the TV, so it flicks by really quickly and it's an assortment of different types of comedy, some video, some sketch, some stand-up, some improvised.

"It's a mixed media event basically.

So what we've developed here is similar, in that there's a filmed segment and a live, improvised segment.

"The murder takes place in the first half and then in the second we perform in front of the audience in the roles of the various suspects, while they interrogate us.

"Then there's a break just before the end when they all go out and vote on who actually committed the murder.

"But in an extension of the filmed elements, we invited people to submit their own audition videos online.

"That worked out so well, we've ended up incorporating them into the production."

Mitchell has frequently made attempts to break down the formulae that surround comedy.

Previous projects have included staging a David Hasslehoff Day in Cardiff, routines incorporating impressively crude celebrity masks and the aforementioned Dirtbox.

"This is what you're seeing now; there's a growing divide between the traditional four-comics-on-a-bill Saturday night type of gig and something that's more multimedia, more of a 'happening'," he says "There are some people who manage to bridge that gap and do a good job of it, but I'm more and more interested these days in doing things like this.

"Don't get me wrong, I still love stand-up and still perform, but it's this kind of work which I think is results in the long run, at least as far as I'm concerned."

To stage his latest efforts, he has gathered a crew of friends and associates who share his interests. "We've been working together for a while most of us, the writer Becky Brynolf, Gareth Brand, Taylor Glenn and I. "We've known each other from the Cardiff comedy scene on and off for years," he says.

"We were all in the Welsh Unsigned Stand-up competition which was on during the Cardiff Comedy festival for example, and in fact Taylor won, which was great.

"So they're a great bunch of people to go into something like this with. It's a very experimental way of doing comedy, and working on the improvised segments has just been hilarious."

He's hoping that the two-night run of And The Killer Is? will allow him to move onto even bigger and better things.

"Well, we'll see how this goes to be honest. I'm aiming to start work on something even bigger as soon as possible.

"I want to get real crowds of people involved in something like this, that's when I feel it will really start paying off."

And The Killer Is? opens at Cardiff's Chapter Arts Centre on Monday. Tickets are pounds 7 from 029 2030 4400.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 2, 2010
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