Murder She Didn’t Write

Murder She Didn't Write.jpg

Pleasance Courtyard – Pleasance Beyond
August 1st– 27th (17.00)

As we are told at the beginning by the narrator/detective everything we are about to witness is entirely improvised. I wondered how this was possible in the context of a play being – outside of ‘Whose line is it anyway’ – something of an improv virgin but soon I found out the ingenuity of the enterprise. Basically we were dealing with a real life Cluedo in which the stock characters found themselves involved in a murderous situation and we have to guess which one of them has committed the crime. The scene of the crime and vital object are decided by the audience by shouting out suggestions whilst a single audience member chose the victim and murderer by picking cards ( unknown to anyone except himself and the actors). In this rather inventive way the audience helps to create the show – and a unique show every time.

The show has grown, and we feel it’s a real challenge to keep it within the sixty minutes after performing it as a two-act interval show.
Read the full interview


This was how we ended up placing the characters in the setting of a Penguin festival, our mysterious object being some chocolate in the shape of a kilt. From this bizarre starting point one had to wonder how the actors would manage to create something that worked and allowed us to suspend our disbelief enough to enter into the fun. My misgivings were swept away initially by the sheer gusto with which the performers threw themselves into it. They came up with some truly inspired skits about penguin training and the cloak and dagger world of the international chocolate trade. There were some marvellously silly scenes such as sensitive penguin trainer Miss Gold giving her ailing penguin Tony mouth to beak resuscitation or a heated argument about chocolate piracy in a crows nest. I found myself entering into the surreal vision they were creating, made that much more enjoyable because I felt that we the audience had helped in some small way to create it.

The live piano accompaniment and the painted drawing room set were both reminiscent of the kind of church hall am-dram productions that the play was also in its own subtle way spoofing. They added to the atmosphere and charm of the show. For the first part of the show it was impressive how the flights of fancy seemed to flow and the jokes seemed to come easily to the cast. They seemed to be having fun trying to outdo each other with the quality of their silly chocolate related puns. The characterisations were bold and colourful and the costumes helped to create a strong cartoonish identity to each one reminiscent of the characters in the original game of Cludeo ( we even had a Miss Scarlet). I found it enjoyable seeing how the performers found ways to draw the characters together and create intrigue between them which gave the latter half of the play a real sense of unpredictability in terms of the ultimate outcome.

However as I’m given to understand is sometimes a problem with improvised theatre about two thirds of the way through, a little after the murder itself it all rather started to run out of steam. There was some noticeable stalling from the cast at times, things didn’t flow quite as effortlessly and the jokes either took the form of increasingly laboured puns or tumbled over their own ridiculousness into implausibility. I ceased to believe in their silly world and the spell was rather broken. Overall though there was enough laughter and good natured fun to forgive the slightly fumbled ending and I was certainly impressed with the quick fire skills of all concerned and the imagination and talent such an enterprise clearly takes.

Ian Pepper


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