There are two rules to improvised comedy: One, you’re only as strong as your weakest member and two, never, ever say no. Murder She Didn’t Write falls victim to both of these rules, making for a distinctly underwhelming performance.
The premise of the show is actually quite promising; the cast will act out a murder mystery based on a title randomly selected from audience suggestions and a luck-of-the-draw pick for which character will end up being the murderer. Only one member of the cast, the detective, knows the identity of this murderer and it is up to him to lead the proceedings in such a way as to give the audience clues.
Excellent premise, sadly botched execution. Rule one rears its head because there is a distinct gradient of skill amongst the performers on stage from competent to calamitous. Three of these performers move events on swiftly, effectively and, usually, amusingly (my personal highlight being a wonderfully apt joke about decorating with fruit and having actual apples and pears on the staircase) and one is a willing participant if given a direction, occasionally even contributing a choice line or two.
However, Rule two comes into effect quite badly with the fifth performer who not only kills stone dead every premise that comes their way but even, in scenes involving multiple groups, undermines promising conversations that don’t involve them, grinding the story to a halt. They are the antimatter of improv.
This is worth mentioning because these interruptions in flow severely hamstring plot progression, turning what should be a tightly structured show into a bit of a halting, incoherent mess. So busy are the performers trying to dig themselves out of the holes they’ve been dropped into that promising plotlines, for example a potential secret love affair between the victim’s mother and one of his university chums, go unexplored. This in turn means that all exposition is left to the final scene and, in this case, the suspect is identified as the person who, up until this revelation, has had by far the weakest motive and literally no opportunity to commit the murder.
It’s clear to see who the culprit is in the failure of this show. They are extremely dangerous to audiences and should be avoided at all costs. Murder most foul.