Dexter and Winter's Detective Agency, by Nathan Bryon
Thursday, October 22, 2020
A recommended addition to your classroom bookshelf, with plenty of options for performance
Dexter and Winter's Detective Agency reads as a fast-paced, witty and inventive play which tackles some serious issues beneath its ‘modern Famous Five’ veneer. When Dexter's mum is arrested and accused of being involved in a serious theft, Dexter and his best friend Winter don their detective hats to try to solve the case. It's a kind of madcap whodunnit with an ethical twist, and received good reviews on its performance tour, which included the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
I am excited to see it published, not least because so many good pieces of family theatre do not get this far. The work often slides into oblivion, despite successful tours and making a huge impact on young people and their families. It is fantastic to see this piece made available, and it will make a wonderful addition to a classroom library. Budding playwrights in the KS2 years will be inspired by the play's structure. Movement sequences deliver several key sections of storytelling, and pupils and teachers alike may find worth in exploring some of these, or using them as a springboard to develop original drama work in class. The writing strikes the delicate balance between being complex enough to challenge the minds of its family audience, while not steering too far from language, characters and concepts that are accessible to and engaging for young people.
As always, I find myself asking how interesting this play might be for staging in schools. A stumbling block could be that Dexter and Winter are on stage for most of the play, but with a little inventiveness and by clearly distinguishing character, it might be possible to cast multiple players in the roles. There are many other smaller roles, and, while these were all played by one actor in the original, one player per role could take on the smaller parts. Beyond these casting hurdles, the material is excellent to rehearse and perform in KS2. It's not too hard-hitting for comfort, and there are plenty of juicy issues to explore, discuss, and even devise around. Staging is simple and parents and extended families would enjoy the wit enmeshed within the piece.