Audience participation: You nail the culprit in 'Shear Madness'

Close shave: Qahar Aqilah (second from left), who plays hairdresser Tommy in Shear Madness, is a riot on stage.

Close shave: Qahar Aqilah (second from left), who plays hairdresser Tommy in Shear Madness, is a riot on stage.

One murder, four suspects – and the audience gets to help in determining the guilty party.

TOMMY can’t take it any more – it drives him mad, this incessant piano practising coming from the floor above his hair salon.

All he wants is for it to stop so he can trim, cut, shave in peace, air his opinions without being interrupted, tell his stories to all and sundry.

So what if Isabel Fernandez upstairs is a world-famous pianist – a hairdresser as charming and flamboyant as he deserves some quiet so he can shine the way he was born to.

“My character dreams of being a big star entertainer. It’s challenging to play him because I’m not like him at all! He always wants to be the centre of attention, he is the life of the party,” says Qahar Aqilah, who plays Tommy.

But does this flamboyant personality – however frustrated he is with the tinkling of the piano coming from the floor above – really have it in him to murder Isabel in return for the blissful silence he craves?

Well, Tommy is really at the mercy of the audience in this interactive whodunit. They can interrogate him, grill him, question him till he breaks.

But he is not the only one who is a suspect.

There’s also Chanel (Marina Tan), the beautician working with him, Datin Violet Schubert (Junji Delfino), the socialite, and Eddie (Na’a Murad) the antiques dealer – all of whom are in the salon (and thus not allowed to leave) when the police (Jason Leong and Phoon Chi Ho) burst onto the scene.

Shear Madness – based on the play Scherenschnitt written by the late German playwright and writer Paul Pörtner in 1963 to use as a study of how people perceive (or misperceive) reality – incorporates improvisation, comedy and audience participation in the crime-solving process.

“It’s a strange play, very unusual and a little odd – but it works,” says director Richard Gardner of Gardner & Wife Theatre, presenter of Shear Madness.

“The detectives round up the four characters and then involve the audience who are encouraged to ask questions, point out mistakes, and interrogate them. As you go along, you find out that each of the four characters have a motif to kill Isabel.”

Throw in a pair of scissors (hey, it’s a hair salon after all), a criminal record and shady slinking around the toilet, and there you have it: an evening of laughs, madcap improvisation and mystery, spontaneous humour and you – a member audience – playing detective.

Even the interview this writer had with the actors gave no clue as to how this murder mystery and comedy will play out on stage.

“My character is very close to Isabel, so she doesn’t like it when Tommy starts gossiping about her and putting her down. But it’s a complicated relationship that she shares with this pianist, so there is a lot of drama,” says Tan, who describes her Chanel as someone who “grew up in a rough part of town” but is slowly making her way up in life.

“Chanel has aspirations, she’s not a bimbo ... but there’s still some social graces that she lacks. She’s fiesty, good company and very likeable, but I wouldn’t trust her with your bank account number or husband because she’s quick in seeing opportunities in life and isn’t afraid to take advantage of that.”

Watch carefully for clues and suspicious behaviour while the actors ham it up on stage, because during the play, and also during the intermission, the police will mingle with the audience and note down your observations and opinions.

Shear Madness, having played in theatres around the world for over three decades now, is unique in that the play is adjusted to the city in which it plays – hence, the setting this time around is Happy Gardens in Kuala Lumpur.

The play will also include references to current affairs and popular culture.

Come for the mystery, come for the comedy, come for the witty lines – but above all, come to get your finger in the pie.

Shear Madness is showing at PJ Live Arts Theatre at Level 2, Block K, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, Selangor from May 28 to June 1, and June 3 to 14. Shows are at 8.30pm (Tuesday to Friday), 3pm and 8.30pm (Saturday) and 2pm and 7pm (Sunday). Tickets range from RM50 to RM90. For more info, visit or or email For ticket purchase, go to

Lifestyle , Lifestyle , Shear Madness