Criminal

Gerard Branson has been murdered. We know who did it, but detective Gary Monk doesn’t have a clue – yet. Criminal is an improvised murder mystery, where one of the comedians has to solve a grisly crime in front of a live audience. There are multiple suspects. Who dunnit?

The detective is the only one who doesn’t know who dunnit.

Poor Gerard was a doctor with a bubbly personality. He was found on the Brighton Palace Pier with an elephant tusk on his side. I know this, because we invented him as hosts Ralph Jones and Joel Gatehouse asked the audience a series of questions to decide the main elements of the murder mystery. Detective Monk, played by Max Dickens, then interrogated a line of witnesses and suspects to discover the events leading to the murder. This cavalcade of dubious characters was the cherry on top of the performance.

We met an ambitious Russian cleaner Boris Yeltsin, played by Joel Gatehouse, who was working at the scene of the crime, but also pops up in various other places during the investigation. He wants to become a doctor, or a coroner. Then there was Wind Commander Ebony, played by Alexander Fox, a war hero who knew Branson from the air forces. How about Florence Jackson, the Pier Manager, who seemed to stick her nose into everyone’s business? The trail of suspects led the detective down to the fishy Fish’s Breakfast pub and Branson’s old hunting club, where all was not as is it seemed.

How about Branson’s family then? He had a wife, a son and a brother. Son Ricky, played by Gatehouse, was huge but simple – or special, bless him. He was into playing with guns and grenades despite his tender years. Wife Cynthia, played by Sally Hodkiss, didn’t have an alibi for the night of the murder; she was alone strolling along the beach. Brother Peter, played by Fox, was jealous of his brother, and also having an affair with Cynthia - plenty of motive for murder.

It was the wife who did it. Cynthia saw Branson kissing the Pier Manager Florence Jackson, flipped off her head and stabbed poor Branson to death with an elephant tusk. When detective Gary Monk solved the murder and arrested her, she tusked herself to death with the same murder weapon. Case closed. Just in case you were not paying attention, this is not a spoiler, as the story is different each time. The detective is the only one who doesn’t know who dunnit.

Murder mystery fits improvisation theatre perfectly. The whole cast was outstanding, and it was hard to imagine that the performance was created on-the-go. The cast was constantly trying to break one another resulting in hysterical laughing fits and dubious character errors. All the while deceiving the detective, yet giving him enough clues to solve the crime. If Cluedo is your favourite board game and you enjoy improv theatre, this is a match made in heaven for you.

Reviews by Johanna Makelainen

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Criminal

★★★★

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The Blurb

Criminal is an anarchic night of improvised murder mystery that has hosted performers including Josie Lawrence, Rachel Parris, and Miles Jupp. Join a lineup of wonderful comedy talents as they solve a murder in front of your eyes. The hideous murder that needs investigating is that of Gerard Branson. Our comics are Sally Hodgkiss ("There is something of the young Victoria Wood about Sally Hodgkiss", British Theatre Guide), Max Dickins (****, The Times), Joel Gatehouse, and Alexander Fox ("Excellent" ,Jack Dee). "Improv doesn't get better than this" ***** (The Wee Review) **** (The 730)

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