I’ve never seen improv comedy before. In fact, I’ve never seen anything other than improvised dance before, so when I found out Mischief Theatre (the creative geniuses behind The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery) were going to be going back to their improv roots over Christmas I was eager to see them. But I didn’t manage to get to the Arts Theatre to see them during that period I was really disappointed. But thankfully an invite landed in my inbox to see a 5* sold out Edinburgh Fringe show that’s been playing select dates in London. That meant I had my bum firmly in a seat at the Leicester Square Theatre to see Degrees of Error’s Murder She Didn’t Write on Sunday, and I can’t believe I didn’t go sooner.
Murder She Didn’t Write is an improvised murder mystery, taking cues from the audience early on to determine the setting and the potential murder weapon. Sunday 25th March 2018, the story was that of the fluorescent mallet. Poor Australian wine maker Bluey Nun lost his life in the glass factory during a wine tasting session, but who was the culprit? Rosie Pink, the wine connoisseur? Saffron Gold, the newbie to the wine world from a small island in the Pacific? Violet Merlot, the glass factory owner who loves hosting a wine tasting or 400 per year? Harold Merlot, Rosie’s ‘friend’ and Violet’s loving son? Or was is Blossom Hill (I’m not kidding), Lady Merlot’s maid? Unfortunately, the detective can’t remember who did it, and must watch the scenes play out to remind himself with the help of Jerkins, an unsuspecting audience member.
With Mr Nun being found with his head bashed in, a chalice in between his teeth and Saffron’s wine bottle in between his legs in a ritual that her people frequently carry out on corpses, surely she’s the murderer? If only it were that simply. Okay, so I can only talk about this particular performance with each night being different, but this gives you a vague idea about what happens during your average Degrees of Error show. However, to pick the the suspect and the murderer each night, we go back to Jerkins. The detective hands over a number of cards identical to the number of actors taking part in the murder around half way through the first act. Jerkins selects one at random, and the only people who see the card are the actors. This is repeated for the murderer towards the beginning on the second act. Nothing is decided until the characters have been developed by the actors, which can vary from show to show.
The live musical accompaniment, improvised along with the plot, is an excellent addition. I don’t always notice the underlying music in plays, but this gave the required ambiance to turn this from amateur improvisation to a slick performance. Another thing that really impressed me were thee puns flying left and right, which the show is worth seeing for alone. Who knew there were so many puns around a gravel garden? Some of the puns are a little obscure and require a slightly more out of the box thought process, but only 5% of them fall flat. I’m a real junkie for play on words, so this really ticked all the boxes for me.
But my favourite part of Murder She Didn’t Write is that you could tell the actors loved what they were doing. With fresh material for every performance, they can play off each other so wonderfully. They also had a brilliant time winding each other up on stage which just made for an even funnier show. I also really enjoyed how interactive the show was. I belly laughed for two hours straight, and it was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
I honestly haven’t laughed so hard since The Play That Goes Wrong, which I didn’t even think would be possible again in the theatre. Degrees of Comedy are a credit to the improv comedy world. You’ve only got one more chance to see Murder She Didn’t Write at the Leicester Square Theatre, so get booking your tickets for the 29th April now. You won’t regret it! In fact, I’m tempted to go back myself if I end up without plans. You’ll never seen the same show twice!