THEATRE REVIEW: Murder She Didn't Write
PUBLISHED: 13:50 30 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:50 30 November 2018
I am fortunate to be able to see a lot of live theatre in my job but before last night I had not attended a completely improvised show before so I was a bit apprehensive about seeing Murder She Didn’t Write at Weston-super-Mare’s Tropicana, as I didn’t know what to expect.
The show, based on the premise of the much-loved television series Murder, She Wrote, invites its audience to influence what happens by shouting out suggestions for the circumstances of a murder, the weapon of its construction, and who from the cast of four players will be the murderer and victim.
The action is all held together by a detective who leads the investigation and stops play to gather the evidence and recap the clues which eventually lead to the discovery of the motive and murderer. The company and audience have no idea how the show will unfold each time, making every performance completely different.
Presented by Bristol production company Degrees of Error, it is a clever piece of theatre stripped back to its bare essentials - a talented, quick-thinking cast and minimal set and props. It takes the audience back to the simpler days of early theatre, before elaborate staging and expensive effects and equipment took over, to what the stage was originally intended for - pure unadulterated entertainment.
The fairly small audience last night lapped up the show’s simplicity and threw themselves into the fully immersive experience, knowing full well the cast would sometimes have to take the suggestions into adult-themed territory, resulting in laugh-out-loud hilarity from beginning to end.
For me, the funniest bits were when, rather than shying away from the difficulties of a make-it-up-as-you-go-along storyline, the cast members fully embraced it and challenged each other to have to act out the silliest and most embarrassing scenarios they could possibly think of during flashback scenes and these were way more elaborate than anything a theatregoer could have suggested.
The audience could only marvel at how amazingly skilled the company are at performing what must be an extremely difficult genre. Not only do they have to negotiate accents and scene-setting which follow the audience suggestions, but also have to know when to not talk over each other so it does not become incoherent rambling but instead feed off and react to each other so the plot remains fluid and moves forward to its conclusion.
The story for last night’s performance worked brilliantly well from the scenario suggested by my colleague and bolstered by other participants equally eager to make outrageous suggestions to challenge the company’s skills. But Degrees of Error were more than ready to step up and tackle everything thrown at them, cleverly making the appreciative audience want to see how the show would pan out if they went back to see it another time.
The show, aimed at over-12s, will be staged next at Theatre Shop in Clevedon from December 13-15, suitably featuring a festive theme.
Tickets, priced £12, are available online at www.theatreorchard.co.uk