I’ve seen a fair bit of comedy improv in my time, so I’m used to the questions the average troupe asks: shout out a profession! a secret! a “non-geographical location”! But I have to hand it to the Murderettes: never before have I seen anyone ask what shape a particular character should be. And thus it was decided, the victim of tonight’s murder would be a triangle. Let the blood-letting begin.
The Murderettes’ concept is a simple (and currently, rather fashionable) one: to make up a mystery thriller on the spot. The storyline I saw was built around a doctor called Gerald, played by Peter Edwards as a stereotype of a big, slow, gentle giant. Gerald was an interesting creation, different from run-of-the-mill improv fare, and a smart response to the fact that Edwards is indeed a sturdy fellow. But the group could have done a lot more with it, I think – there was much more humour to be milked from the physical mismatches that frequently ensued.
There was some fun slapstick around dead bodies – a hilarious number of characters ended their appearances by being manhandled off the stage – and the pace of the story picked up as time went on. But on the day that I attended, the group didn’t work together anywhere near as well as the very best improv teams can. Too often, they seemed to countermand each other’s ideas; once a plan’s been voiced, they really need to run with it. And, while there were a few genuinely rib-tickling lines, the back-and-forth between the characters could have been sharper too.
The early parts of the show felt oddly subdued, with the wilful over-acting which defined the last few scenes working a lot better for me. But most of all, given the milieu they’ve chosen, I feel the Murderettes need to work in a few more familiar tropes. The great thing about improvising a murder mystery is that there’s a huge back-catalogue to plunder from; a few nights curled up with a Midsomer Murders box set might do this show a whole world of good.
I admire anyone with the guts to do improv, and I always point out that my reviews – good or bad – can only reflect how the show panned out on one particular night. But on this occasion, while I came to love the sweetly docile Gerald, I didn’t feel the Murderettes themselves showed all that much love for the genre they’d chosen to lampoon.