Degrees of Error, the team behind murder-mystery improv Murder She Didn’t Write, talk about their quick-witted show and why improv can uniquely bring the much-loved whodunit genre to life.
Murder, She Didn’t Write is an improvised murder mystery that mixes comedy, theatre and Cluedo all together into a tidy, one hour of silliness. This will be the show’s biggest year at the fringe, moving in to a much bigger venue at the Pleasance and it’s a year where it feels likes there is a real space for it. Big TV hits in recent years from the UK have included Downton Abbey, Luther, Sherlock and there are aspects of all three in Murder, She Didn’t Write. Combine this with the new resurgence of improv with shows like Murder In Successville and musical Showstoppers! recent Olivier award win, I think there is a gap in the market for taking the classic murder mystery and giving it a bit of an improv shake-up.
Not to mention crime is a genre that us Brits tend to pride ourselves on an international level. Sherlock Holmes, Poirot, Miss Marple, Inspector Clouseau - these are all detectives that transcend the actors who’ve portrayed them. Crossing multiple media, books, films, and TV, there seems to be a respect for the canon and love for the characters that means these remain national treasures.
So what do we do in Murder, She Didn’t Write? Well, first of all, we’ve been bringing this show to the Fringe for about five years and in that time we have played with the format to maximise our creative freedom and entertainment for the audience. We use a detective, who can be played by any member of our group, who interacts with the audience, five suspects (one of which becomes the murder victim), an improv pianist to underscore the scenes and an improviser on lights.
The detective throws a deerstalker hat randomly into the audience to pick one member to be their sidekick, Jerkins. It is through Jerkins that the audience gets to influence the show by suggesting settings and important evidence and Jerkins gets final say on which we include in the show. Then we’re off, working hard to build the world the audience specifically asked for and creating characters (soon to be suspects) from scratch. Then it’s Jerkins who picks, either knowingly or at random, the victim and murderer of the night’s show, without the audience seeing. It’s up for the audience to watch the show and guess who the murderer is by keeping an eye out for clues, motives, alibis etc.
Our extra twist is that we all know each other insanely well and can jump in each other’s heads at a moments notice; we’re not only making stuff up but we’re also playing with each other. We’re having fun as improvisers within the scene, shafting each other, synchronising and setting up gags in the moment together within the scenes. This is the layer you only ever get with improv shows – the sense that anything can and will happen. It’s part of the reason we always need to be on our toes; part of why we rehearse for a show we make up on the spot every night.
Murder, She Didn’t Write takes audiences on a new murder mystery adventure every night from 2-28th August at the Pleasance Courtyard at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Tickets available at www.edfringe.com