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Camden Fringe: The Murderettes, Phoenix Artist Club

Part of the Camden Fringe 2013
Improvisation presented by The Murderettes

★★

Pros: Unique concept for improv, great dead pan humour at times.

Cons: Dragged quite a lot in places. One scenario was drawn out for too long.

Our Verdict: Admirable attempt to explore and develop the improv comedy genre.

Courtesy of The Murderettes

The Murderettes are a murder mystery themed comedy improv group. The premise is simple but inventive. The small group of comedians start by asking the audience to give one of the company a profession and a state of mind. For example a depressed male stripper? Then another actor simply a profession. A dentist? The group then improvise a first scene with these suggestions. The result? A depressed male stripper is sitting in a dentist’s chair. He’s pretty upset because when he was working the night before, a punter heavily criticised his molars. The dentist is bemused – she thinks his molars are quite stunning. A murder is then committed within the possible realms of this audience-sourced scenario. The rest of the action then follows the actors as they switch characters and, in an aim to solve the murder mystery, improvise a storyline and series of related characters.

I was really enthusiastic about seeing the Murderettes. I love improv comedy and it’s not done enough. The nature of the audience involvement ordinarily makes each night completely unique with unpredictably hilarious results. There were certainly moments during this hour long improvisation which were very funny. The deadpan humour of Peter Edwards especially, as the heavily depressed male stripper, lent itself very well to the premise and there were times when I laughed out loud. There was a great synergy between the performers too and they were clearly enjoying every minute which was great to see.

However, mostly I felt that the comedians missed a lot of opportunities to make the experience infinitely better. There is no doubt that improv comedy like this is extremely difficult for a performer. I greatly admire anyone who is brave enough to pursue a career as a comedian. The brightly lit, virtually empty stage which they have to fill with nothing but themselves is a prospect which terrifies me. It’s often a lot more exposing than acting. Generally, comedy audiences are more discerning and sometimes openly critical than theatre goers too. With improv like this, where the evenings successes are dependant on the audience suggestions, it’s arguably even more nerve racking. Therefore it must be daunting to make any bold moves once the action has started on stage.

Improv, by nature, does call for a bold steer from the performers though which is scary but necessary to make it more successful i.e. the ability to recognise when the action needs a clearer momentum or direction change. In this instance the piece did drag a little across the whole hour and I did go away feeling it could have been snappier and faster moving. Perhaps there could have been two smaller murder mysteries to solve across the hour to refresh the experience? Possibly the comedians could have asked for further audience involvement suggestions on what should happen next later on in the scenario? Or could they have switched characters halfway through with someone else taking on the stripper role? These devices may have given it a different dimension or momentum which may have made it feel a bit fresher and faster moving?

Overall, this was an admirable attempt to explore the improv comedy genre with an inventive twist and funny results.

Seen the show yourself? Agree or disagree? Submit your own review with our Camden Fringe Big Audience Project!

The Murderettes runs at the Phoenix Artist Club until Tuesday 20th August 2013.
Box office: http://www.phoenixartistclub.com/index.php/tickets

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