EFR - Reviews of Murder She Didn't Write

Murder She Didn't Write

Mon 12th – Sun 25th August 2013

reviews

Lucy Wood

at 14:14 on 20th Aug 2013

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At first glance, detectives, period drama, and improvisational comedy hardly seem like the easiest of bedfellows. Throw in a reference to a TV show which went off the air in 1996 and it seems like a truly bizarre way to spend your evening. And in many ways it is. It is, however, also one of the funniest you’ll have in quite some time.

The show begins before you’re even through the door as audience members are asked to contribute their own ideas for ‘The Case of…’ and cast members mill around in the audience, complete in period costume and plummy accents. The lights go down: the actors enter, the body is found, and the laughs just keep coming.

While the subject matter is thrown up night by night, there is no sense of a ramshackle production thrown together before the audiences' eyes. Rather, the tightly choreographed play is adapted each night. A bespoke play for every audience which comes to watch.

The whole operation was well managed and cleverly held together, thanks to the relatively straight performance of Dan Titmuss as the detective charged with finding out that evening’s murderer (secretly selected by one of the audience members). From his performance, the sheer insanity of the rest of the performer’s parts are allowed to spill over the stage without feeling too chaotic or forced. Particular praise should also be given to Angy Yeoh, who took the brave decision to step away from the comedy for a moment and create a more touching and emotionally involved scene, providing a heart to the performance which is usually entirely lacking in improvised theatre such as this.

There were a number of small hiccups throughout: names were frequently forgotten or else completely incorrect, although this was usually dealt with speedily and allowed the action to move on. Unfortunately, on the night I saw the performance, Stephen Clements had an altercation with one of the chairs on stage, followed by a second accident with a broken glass. However, this was dealt with using such great charm and humour, and so effectively worked into the rest of the show, that these mistakes became a testament to the skill of the performers involved.

All in all, 'Murder She Didn't Write' has the potential to be an excellent show time after time, and definitely one to watch.

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James Bell

at 14:18 on 20th Aug 2013

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As no doubt countless reviewers have already pointed out before me, reviewing improvised comedy is somewhat tricky given that no two performances are ever the same. However, I walked away from this show with enough confidence to say that, whatever night you chose to see Degrees of Error do their thing, you can be sure of an entertaining evening.

The set-up is slightly unusual in that rather than asking the audience to choose a few elements of the plot, the entire murder case is named by an audience member. On this particular evening the performance was entitled “The Case of the Carbonised Edinburgh Tram”, a rather ridiculous concept and one that initially seemed to flummox the cast. Consequently, the evening got off to a very slow start: the accents seemed a little forced, the delivery slightly stiff and stilted, and several desperate, searching looks made it obvious the group was not comfortable.

I also had the feeling that the actors were following a pre-determined plan. This seems like a reasonable tactic given the demands of improv, however, it’s one thing to do it secretly behind the scenes, but quite another to let the audience become aware of it. As if this wasn’t enough, the cast kept forgetting what their characters were called, which added to the sense that the show was barely keeping its head above water.

All of this, you might think, would be enough to kill the performance, and I was getting a bit annoyed that the group was dragging Angela Lansbury’s good name through the mud. But the audience, myself included, were often roaring with laughter. The troupe really began to shine when they allowed themselves to relax and properly ad lib some dialogue. Stephen Clements, who played the pompous Lord Grass, was the king of the quip and non sequitur, garnering some of the biggest laughs of the night.

I felt that Lizzy Skrzypiec did the most with her character and descended most fully into the overblown farce that a concept such as this requires. The unexpected accidents (one of the cast breaking a glass, another knocking over a lampshade) also provided several freer and more natural moments of comedy that made the audience feel that they were witnessing something truly unique.

All in all, this production’s flaws probably would have been greatly minimised had the cast been given a less arduous task and, despite a few painful moments, several inspired, off the cuff lines, and a stellar ending, makes this a show well worth seeing.

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