Review: Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit @ Brisbane Comedy Festival 2024

'Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit'
Lloyd Marken likes to believe everyone has a story and one of the great privileges of his life has been in recent years to tell stories as a freelance writer. He has proudly contributed to scenestr magazine since 2017 and hopes to continue long into the future.

For those who love improv and British murder mysteries, you are in for a treat. Perhaps even a jellied eel treat.

Devised and directed by David Massingham, ‘Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit’ has a real love for the genre, taking inspiration from lauded mystery novels and the inexplicable cosiness of British television programmes that take place in period rural settings, where people die on a regular basis. The show itself has that kind of well-worn cosiness of the familiar and a feel-good nature all of its own.

Local police inspector Detective Inspector Owen Gullet (David Massingham) and murder novelist slash amateur sleuth Artemis Martin (Louisa Fitzhardinge) are our guides into this world, setting up the premise and characters.

Before entering the venue, you use a QR Code to vote on who will be the victim and assailant that night, as well as the murder weapon and a tell-tale clue. No doubt a little bit of the fun is seeing if your suggestions will end up being revealed.

The Underground Theatre at the Brisbane Powerhouse is the perfect space for such a performance, with a fair capacity, yet retaining an intimate feel when the lights are dimmed.

Quickly it becomes apparent that for the most part, two cast members are called to the stage to improvise a scene that has been set up before disappearing behind the curtains again for the next rotation. It is an efficient way to create motive for all, as we barrel towards the untimely end of one individual.

Sometimes in improv shows there is the tension of a high wire act, as the artists on stage will search for the punchline that eludes them. It leads to tremendous highs when it arrives, as if the audience are wrapped up in their plight too.

Here, not so much – the characters are so rich with comedic possibilities and the pace so fast that there are always laughs and if things are getting a little quiet, well then not to worry – on to the next scene. Without that tension, the highs are a little more spaced apart, but due to the stronger scaffolding, you start to get caught up in the lives of these people and care about them.

Dare it be said a doomed love affair became a little touching. On the night, Jason Geary as a pompous art dealer is particularly funny, and Kathryn Tohill as an uptight school teacher gives the show an emotional throughline.

Bravo to all the performers though, who prove unafraid to poke fun at themselves or land a meta joke, yet at the same time play their characters with conviction and heart. That makes this a very special village to visit indeed.

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