Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit | Sydney Fringe Festival

Image by Mark Gambino

This review comes from Night Writes guest reviewer Jack Mitchell

A murder mystery in a quaint British village is a genre we are all familiar with thanks to Agatha Christie, Cluedo, and Hot Fuzz alike. As a well-trodden path, it is formula that is ripe for parody, and Murder Village sets out to do just that with their hour-long improvised show, playing its Sydney premiere until Sunday October 2nd at Sydney Fringe.

Detective Inspector Owen Gullet (David Massingham) and Monsieur Aragon Pewter (Lliam Amor) introduce us to the village’s usual suspects. There is the local nurse, Flossie Partridge (Louisa Fitzhardinge); a humble gardener, Tom Tiller (Jim Fishwick); a virtuous nun, Sister Berta Dorothea (Amanda Buckley); and a suspicious vicar, Victor Prays (Jason Geary). Prior to meeting any of the characters, audience members vote on the murderer, the victim, the weapon of choice, and the crime’s defining clue, and the actors improvise a new murder scenario according to input received on the night.

The actors came to the stage with their characters already firmly established, which made for an entertaining hour of intrigue. With accents ranging from RP English to Scottish, and from French to West Country, as well as some fine period costumes, the production did well to transport us to the scene of the crime. There was a clear camaraderie and cohesion among the performers, and the transitions and sequence of scenes were tightly executed.

Nick Harriot was the musical improvisor for the duration of the performance and effectively heightened tension and pre-empted stage action throughout the show with his keyboard and glockenspiel.

There are many stereotypical characters within the murder mystery genre, like the French detective and the humble vicar. As such, it was great to watch the actors play around with expectations, winking at the audience as they both met and subverted the rules of the game. An off-stage voice provided tongue-in-cheek narration for the action, and the lighting operator was tasked with meeting on-the-spot demands for lighting states, providing for a number of hilarious moments.

The particular mystery I witnessed concerned a shoddily performed Eucharist and a death by poisoned rose. Be sure to attend one of Murder Village’s remaining performances to witness a truly unique murder mystery.

Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit ran at Newtown High School of Performing Arts from September 28th – October 2nd as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival

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