Murder She Didn't Write

Thu 31st July – Sat 16th August 2014

reviews

Gender Trouble

at 20:39 on 7th Aug 2014

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It's hard to criticise a show that is a) entirely devised on the spot and b) succeeds in entertaining to such a level that the audience are in hysterics throughout.

Given that every improvised performance is different, my perspective is obviously wholly related to the one performance I saw. This followed the death of a butler in Kensington Palace who was murdered by the manor's hostess so that she could 'do something interesting for once' - a line that induced ripples of hilarity.

This theme of silliness and unjustified explanation was a motif that permeated the performances and emerged in other highlights such as false french identities, spontaneous physical assaults and the all too surprising lesbian love affair revealed towards the end.

Whilst it's true that the slapstick silliness of the performance was indeed funny, this frequently manifested itself into the actors corpsing on stage. This would have been fine - all things considered - given that the show's very nature is to burn, break and obliterate the fourth wall at every corner, nook and cranny. However one couldn't help but notice this spill over into the actors laughing (perhaps too much) at the funniness of their own jokes - which couldn't help but incur the odd cringe.

This was quickly remedied however, by one of the actors taking the initiative to move the plot forward in a totally different, and usually comedic, direction. This was frequently Imogen Palmer, who's long considered pauses displayed her expertise as a talented and clearly experienced actress: "Mr Pendragon. It appears you think we are killers. But we are not, we're just French" being a line that had the audience in particular stitches.

This is a show worth seeing. Silly but clever, slapstick but also maturely improvised. A whirl of comic success.

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Alex Green

at 10:51 on 8th Aug 2014

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It’s a murder mystery entirely improvised according to the whim of the audience. It’s characters are seemingly lifted straight from a game of Cluedo, but are different every night. The shocks come thick and fast.

The first is a gunshot offstage that gets the crowd on the edge of their seats. The clever revealing moments that fill the rest of the show take the cliché of the murder mystery and stretch it to ridiculous lengths. The show’s premise is this: the audience choose the title, its protagonist, and the setting. The murderer and the victim are also chosen by an audience member, so it's difficult not to feel directly involved in the action. The lead of the night is named Don Pendragon, and the murder takes place in Kensington Palace. The name of the show: The Case of Madame Bouton’s Green Bag. A good start then.

The components are undoubtedly ridiculous, but they force the cast into positions I can only call hilarious. Casual questions such as ‘how are you?’ transform into ‘how... is your palace?’ as each cast member realises how ridiculous the situation he finds himself in is. With half the cast ending up with French accents and an inadvertent descent into class politics due to the setting, the beauty of the show is how it tests its cast.

Crafty husband, Mr White, deserves special mention for his witty one-liners that keep the plot moving during moments that threatened to see it stall. The decrepit butler of Kensington Palace is performed with an endearingly dour humour and is made even funnier by the impromptu revelation that he used to be a womaniser. I was sad to see him murdered. Luckily, the many flashbacks to the moments surrounding his death see him reprise the role in a typically droll manner, which further draws the crowd into the twists and turns of the night’s show.

The five strong cast come across more as a group of friends enjoying themselves, rather than a cast working towards a professional performance. This is not necessarily a bad thing - engaging the audience and provoking laughs is the priority. The performance caters for witty one-liners and self-aware references to the risky nature of improvisation but in essence, the production relies on the crowd for its inspiration. All in all, a deeply enjoyable performance that shows depth at points where depth was not expected.

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