Improv comedy seems to be in the ascendent and judging by the huge crowd that’s packed into the Pleasance Beyond to watch Murder She Didn’t Write, the form has now hit peak popularity. Here, Bristol Improv Theatre apply the concept to the classic country house murder, incorporating an Agatha Christie style setting with elements of Cluedo, so that all six actors are colour-coded – Miss Violet, Mrs Gold, etc – presumably to make it easier for us to follow the proceedings.
A resident sleuth invites members of the audience to supply some of the elements the cast must base their story around (today for example, a three-legged race figures quite prominently) and the six strong cast create their show around these suggestions.
It’s early in the run and there’s the distinct feeling that things haven’t quite bedded in yet. There are some sporadically amusing elements here but to be honest, the improvisations we’re given aren’t really on a par with some of the discipline’s best exponents and as the play moves fitfully towards it’s conclusion – the unmasking of the murderer – I can’t help feeling this needs to be a whole lot punchier than it currently is. And actually, once we, the audience, have made our initial suggestions, there really isn’t much else for us to do except sit back and watch. (It doesn’t help that one member of the cast keeps corpsing in response to things that don’t actually seem all that funny). At any rate, for this to work properly, it needs to make the audience feel a little more involved. As it stands, it delivers rather less than it promises.
Still, most members of the audience seem to enjoy it and leave with happy smiles on their faces. Maybe you should go and check it out for yourselves – after all, one person’s lead piping is the next person’s candelabra.