Premeditated murder is wrong, we can all agree on that. But improvised, spur-of-the-moment murder? That’s different – especially when the murderer, victim and detective are all part of a theatre troupe. That sort of makes it OK, especially when the murder takes place in the intimate cafe theatre at the Phoenix Artists Club.
The Murderettes have developed an unusual twist on the improv genre. Each of their performances sees the production of a brand new off-the-cuff murder mystery. With the only props being a couple of chairs they weave an unlikely tale of death and detective genius. The episode I saw concerned the death of a farmer’s wife. The poor woman (played by Jacob Sarfas) had been brutally killed – drowned in a vat of courgette soup. Unusually for someone who has been pronounced dead and had a forensic report written about them, she somehow came back to life and turned out to have been in league with the baddie. Who then killed her again. It was complicated stuff.
Rather than ask the audience for a title or a career the group ask for an emotion for some of the characters. Improv shows often include the audience at the beginning and then their job is done. Here, the performance stopped a few times for the audience to contribute further to the plot. Had we seen anything? Who did we suspect?
Peter Edwards starred as the love-struck detective, reminding himself on occasion of that policing truth – I must stop falling in love with the suspects. All the best detectives have a sidekick and he was no exception. Edwards had a chicken – played by Norm Rocher – and known as Chicken. Together they bravely investigated the sad events on the farm, although Chicken kept trying to start businesses with the suspects. And Edwards kept falling in love with them.
Improvising a murder story is a deliberately high risk undertaking. There’s a lot that has to be discovered in the performance. Lighthearted rather than roaringly funny each performance of the Murderettes is entirely different and may be very educational. I learned the dangers of toxifloxitine, a most dangerous drug – the merest sip can kill. If any of the Murderettes offer you a drink, don’t take it…