How to run a dinner theatre script

Each game requires 5 actors who are fully in the know and one stage manager to oversee the whole activity as well as costumes and props.

They are fully cast based, which means the cast need to know a full character background and a series of theatre style scripts.  Cast need to be able to ad lib responses to questions throughout the night, and with numbers above 80 they may also need microphones in order to be heard by the guests (unless you have a really quiet audience).

One murder occurs before the guests arrive and one midway through the evening.

Your guests play the role of detectives. You can have any number of detectives for this mystery between 40 and 200. We would suggest a number greater than 200 to be too large an audience.

The mystery requires advance preparation, and several rehearsals. The more notice you have, and the more preparation and effort you put into running the mystery, the better it will run for you and your guests. You will need to liaise closely with the catering staff on the night so that they are familiar with the program and serve and clear at the right time.

These scripts are usually not appropriate for young children due to the number of deaths involved!


Brief introduction to the format of these games.

This mystery is written to be acted out in one room. The guests will watch a series of acted out scenes and also have opportunity to quiz the cast first hand throughout the night and more formally at the end.

The cast are all required to learn their parts before the event. They will need to understand their character and be able to ad lib on the information given in their character background. Cast will need several rehearsals, and preferably one within the room to be used on the night to allow familiarity with the stage area (which is the entire room).

It is the role of the invited guests to act as detectives and try and solve the mystery and determine the killer. Once in the dining room the guests should each receive a guest hand out and have access to pens as well as an answer sheet for the group.

At the very end of the night opportunity is given for more formal questioning and only after this has occurred will the guests be asked to submit their answers.

The mystery closes when the solution is provided by the inspector.


How these games usually run

(All times are approximate – cast should liaise with kitchen staff throughout the evening and vice versa.)

7.00pm On arrival guests should be greeted in character by the cast. If a separate room is available, such as a bar, where the guests can congregate before dinner then it is suggested that those three cast mingle with the guests in this room before they are conducted through for dinner.
7.30pm  The guests are called through to the main dining room and seated.
7.40pm  Round One Script.
7.50pm  First course is served, eaten and plates cleared before the next script.
8.20pm Round 2 script.
8.30pm Main Course is served. Actors mingle with the guests giving them opportunity to ask them questions. Plates should be cleared as well before next round.
9.10pm Round 3 script – second death.
9.20pm Dessert is served. Actors mingle with the guests giving them opportunity to ask them questions. Plates should be cleared as well before next round.
9.50pm  Round 4 script. Inspector asks guests at the end of this round to formulate some questions.
10.00pm Coffee / tea and formal questions session. At the end of the question session the inspector will ask the guests to complete their answer sheets and hand them in.
10.20pm  Round six – solution.


Your job as host

Firstly make sure you have adequate time to prepare for the event, that all cast are happy with their scripts and that anything else you plan to run at the same time as the mystery e.g. refreshments, has been adequately thought through.

These mysteries are time consuming to prepare, and require a dedicated cast and several props as well as copying of a guest handout and answer sheet which should be available to each guest (with pens) on the night.

Before the event you will need to decorate the rooms, gather props, copy enough guest handouts for each attendee, and ensure that the cast have adequately rehearsed.

On the night it is your job as host to make sure all your guests are comfortable with what they are being asked to do, and that the event passes off without a hitch.

Although the guests will have been given their instructions, sometimes these are simply not enough, especially if they are nervous of their role in the mystery. As host it will be your job to make sure they understand what is expected of them.

Don’t forget to look after your cast! Acting is hard work.

Running a large group murder mystery is really not as difficult to do as you might think, and if you get stuck why not email us? We’re here to help after all!

Finally and most importantly: Have fun!

Event management services are available for this format of event script – feel free to contact us for a free quote.


Video introduction to this type of game format:

The video below introduces how these games work. 

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Flexible and fun!

We contacted Red-Herring-Games for a party for a special occasion. Why going to restaurants to eat is the preferred activity to mark milestones is beyond me and my friends.   The choice of mystery was obvious, looking at the options from New Zealand on the web Red Herring stuck out from the international options.  A quick look at the site and games showed subtlety as well a range of choices.  The numbers you could have for each evening was important,  Red Herring had scaling options a good range of scenarios but most importantly were Jo and team being flexible, responsive and helpful.

Rachel McWilliam, Arts Development Officer, Lincs Inspire

Thank you Red Herring Games for the marvellous 'Murder!  Cargo Connections?' event that you organised for us as part of Museums at Night at the Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby. The whole evening went so well and was brilliant fun.  I know from all the feedback that our visitors had a fantastic time. It was really good working with you and I have no doubt that we will do again in the not too distant future.  

A. Nonymous (council employee)

I would like to thank you and your colleague for helping contribute towards our successful conference last month.  Everyone really seemed to enjoy the evening and it was rewarding that so many delegates were able to participate in addition to the main "Actors".  Our conference evaluation froms included the following comments:
  • "Enjoyed the evening entertainment!"
  • The evening entertainment was great and the confusion made it great fun!"
With thanks and best wishes.

Sarah Spencer (Cleethorpes Chronicle)

I had no idea what to expect before purchasing a ticket for Old, New, Borrowed, Blue, which was being staged at a nearby hotel, and feared it might involve taking part in some way. However thankfully for me no acting was necessary, just some amateur sleuthing. "Wedding guests" of which I was one, were called upon to move from room to room in the hotel in groups, questioning a number of possible murderers with the aim of solving the mystery of the dead bridegroom. The interviewees were really fun characters and gave us all some good laughs. Of course they all had motives and it was a case of identifying the shiftiest. The wedding theme was particularly good, as it fitted well with the venue, the buffet that was part of the evening (with a wedding cake in the middle) and the fact that everyone had been able to dress up to fit in without going to the trouble of fancy dress. I didn't think I had enough "evidence" to actually accuse anyone but later regretted not even writing down my first guess as it wouldn't have been too far off the mark. The evening was great fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it and take part. I would definitely recommend Old, New, Borrowed, Blue as good for getting even reluctant or first-time mystery party-goers involved.  

Alan Young (Personal Touch Mortgages)

What a cracking nights entertainment! We don't get out much nowadays with 2 kids and this was exactly what we were looking for in a good night out. Lots of fun with tongue firmly in cheek and everyone kept guessing whodunnit right to the very end. Would definitely attend another!!!!!  

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