Saturday 13 April 2019

Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

After killing it at Melbourne Fringe Festival last year, the residents of Murder Village have returned to Melbourne for another season of murder most improvised. Presented by Dave Massingham, the premise of Murder Village is simple but incredibly effective; one where the audience individually vote for who they would like to see die and who should be their killer. After that, it's up to our improvisers to make the story come to life while keeping us guessing who the two shall be. It's all rather quite dramatic.

Amberly Cull, who plays village sleuth Jemima Marmalade, has been left in the dark as to who the killer is, and alongside Detective Inspector Own Slugget (Massingham), she interrogates all the suspects before gathering them together and confirming if she has unmasked the murderer or lynched an innocent person. The scenes between these two law-abiding citizens are a great example that these "people" are not stereotypes but characters with history and convictions, who just happen to be heightened versions of themselves.

The rest of the cast (Louisa Fitzhardinge, Sophie Kneebone, Lliam Amor and Jason Geary) as residents of Murder Village do a fantastic job in embracing their characters. Of particular note is Fitzhardinge whose portrayal of an awkward and clumsy nurse with a killer charm is full of personality, emotions and consistent mannerisms. As narrator/director, Massingham cleverly guides the story along while making sure certain characters interact and seeing what happens. There are some wonderful moments that occur because of this, including the discovery that Rufus P Firefly (Amor) managed to transcribe his entire attack on his typewriter as it happened (but forgot to say who the killer was!) and Edith Parnelle's unexpected news about being treated for syphilis.

Impro is about making things up. Being spontaneous and surprising your partner, yourself and the audience. However, with Murder Village the cast have the added task of working towards a specific ending but not giving it away too early. It's only a few minutes before the show begins that they find out who is being killed and by whom, so there is a lot of story to be mapped and told in 60 minutes. They quickly establish believable motives for each character and the final scene plays out quite nicely with almost all the pieces coming together. This is improvised after all, so some plot holes are allowed - and even welcomed - as part of the joy is then seeing the performers try to talk their way out of it.

Murder Village might be a risky place to live in, but you can bet your life that seeing Murder Village will be the perfect show to end your evening during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. With tickets selling fast - including some sold out nights - and the town's population dropping to 24, you better act fast and get yourself to Murder Village before all its residents wind up dead. 

Click here for my interview with Dave Massingham.


Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: until 21 April, 8:30pm
Length: 60 minutes 
Tickets: $34 Full | $30 Conc | $27 Tightarse Tuesday
Bookings: MICF website

Image credit: Mark Gambino

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