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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow Murder, She Didn't Write
Murder, She Didn't Write
Published on Monday, 19 August 2013

4 stars

Sweet Grassmarket (venue website)
12-13, 15-20, 22-25 Aug, 6:15pm-7:15pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

As you wait to be called into Murder, She Didn’t Write, a gentleman will approach you bearing a calling-card. Write down the title of your perfect mystery novel, and drop it into his box; and if yours is the one which comes out on top when they cut the shuffled deck, you’ll get to see your very own detective story played out on stage. That’s the simple premise of this cheerful, and hugely successful, improv show.

There are, of course, two big challenges in reviewing improvised shows: they’re different every night, and the quality of the experience relies very much on the suggestions the audience throw in.  I’d have to say they were unlucky on the night I attended, when their chosen author picked a murder weapon so ridiculously archaic that none of the cast had actually heard of it.  But they recovered entertainingly from the calamity – deeming that the offending word referred to an obscure French poison, and turning it into the jumping-off point for a commendably coherent narrative.

Most of the cast play a group of subtly colour-coded suspects, clearly inspired by (but not beholden to) the characters in Cluedo.  They are, of course, broad caricatures, but they were played with gusto, with particular credit on the night I attended for Stephen Clements as the stiff-upper-lipped colonel.  Between them, they conjured up a satisfyingly convoluted web of relationships between the four potential miscreants, which paid due homage to the plot twists found in any decent Agatha Christie.  The detective, however, isn’t one you’d find in a classic novel: Imogen Palmer creates an entertainingly unique character, highly intelligent but socially clumsy, the ideal humorous host for the show.

When you think about it carefully, though, you realise that the audience hasn’t had quite as much input as it seems.  A randomly-selected spectator gets to pick the murder mystery’s title, and someone on the front row secretly identifies the murderer.  But the rest of the details – the characters, the setting, the motive – are all chosen by the team.  It lacks that sense of seat-of-your-pants recklessness you get from the very best long-form improv, where half the magic lies in wondering how on Earth they’re going to tie an eclectic set of concepts together.

But it was, in the end, just very very funny, as proved by the belly-laughs from the crowd all around me.  It worked best, for me, when there were more than two characters on the stage, and it came together most of all during the requisite drawing-room denouement.  All in all, if you like your crime fiction, you’ll be delighted by this hour of uncomplicated, unassuming, upbeat entertainment.

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