Monday, 5 June 2017

Dramaturgy, She Didn’t Write: Lizzy Skrzypiec @ Edfringe 2017

Murder, She Didn’t Write

17:00 (18:00)

2-28 August

2-4-1 on 7th & 8th August

Late night drag 

‘Murder, She Didn’t Write’
Every Sunday at 23:00

A classic murder mystery is created on the spot in this ingenious and hilarious show from Bristol Improv Theatre's resident company. Miss Crimson poisoned in the parlour? Mr Gold exploded by cannon in Sainsbury's? You decide! But will you guess whodunnit? And for your Sunday night entertainment, don’t forget our additional late night shows!

What was the inspiration for this performance?

This improv show is a murder mystery format we have spent years creating and performing. We are improvisers from a range of backgrounds and we wanted to create a show that has both drama and comedy - rare in a lot of improv shows. Murder mystery is very popular and, judging by the popularity of a lot of crime dramas on Netflix etc, it certainly seems in vogue. 

However, when we came up with the show we just picked something we would enjoy learning about which had a whole world we could create, something you could really get your teeth into as a viewer. Not just a throw away series of sketches but a genuine plot with twists and turns and red herrings that you could really invest in. We hope we have achieved that with Murder, She Didn't Write.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

It certainly is. It's my favourite thing to do, after a show, put the world to rights over a pint of gin and just discuss what we've seen. It's always been a great catalyst to get the grey cells in motion. I've watched a fair few shows I have hated or certainly felt were poor performances, but even those have sparked discussion. 

Even a badly performed show can give you something to talk about good or bad, and in that case has it really failed? 

How did you become interested in making performance?
Me personally? I've always been a bit of a performer I think, even back at school dramatically retelling embarrassing stories or recounting what happened in class "oh you wont believe what Lisa did in History?" I, like most improvisers, got into the art of improv at university. Bristol Improv Society was both incredibly inspiring and just plain silly. 

I thought it was ludicrous people would pay good money to see a show where people dicked around playing games on stage. Turns out it's a beautiful thing to watch, and to perform. I was hooked.
Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

I used to watch a lot of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as a kid and a lot of Monty Python too. It seemed like it was a space where performers had fun, there was a palpable joy and friendship. Peter Cook would always go off script to make Dudley Moore corpse and I thought it was the most marvelous thing to watch. I'm of the belief that an audience like that chemistry, they like to be in on the act. 

There's the story of two men in an art gallery but also the story of Peter pulling out whatever lines he could to make Dudley nearly choke on his sandwich. That's the approach we take on stage, we are a band not a group of individual performers. People like watching us harmonise with ideas and play with each other. Setting each other up and letting the audience in on something special. We are always in each other's heads.
Does the show fit with your usual productions?

We are the resident group of the Bristol Improv Theatre and they teach a lot of long form (plot lead) improvisation so in that respect MSDW is absolutely a fit for their usual productions. This is Degrees of Error's main show. Our "flagship" production we've worked on for about 5 years. 

We also have a few other formats we create and try out but this one is something we've spent a long time on. We have another show called "Writers' Room" which is completely different to MSDW. It's set in a writers' basement, littered with ideas, where we gather round a typewriter to tell a story which we jump on stage and act out. It's very stylistic (similar to MSDW) but much less formatted which gives us a vehicle to perform a different type or style of improvisation. 
What do you hope that the audience will experience?

It's a play along show. As with any murder mystery you'll be guessing whodunnit the whole time and we ask everyone to point out who they think is the murderer before the final denouement. However, I also hope there's that extra layer that only improv can provide - a scene within a scene. 

Mr Blue talking to Ms Violet but also two improvisers playing on stage, working together, harmonising, throwing each other offers and curve balls. Setting each other up for evidence and motives. Building on a story. A two level approach where on one hand we have a complex story (I hope) and on the other we have a band of people joyously dicking around.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

So there are a number of audience interactions formatted into our show. We have a character called Jerkins who is a member of the audience who catches a hat which is randomly and blindly thrown by the detective. 

They help the detective choose which audience suggestions they want for the show. We ask the audience for suggestions on an event during which a murder takes place, and an unusual item which is central to the case. Then Jerkins also picks (without anyone else in the audience seeing) the victim and the murderer. It's up to the rest of the audience to try and work out who the murderer is. 

Then, just before the denouement, we ask everyone to point at who they think did it. It's almost a game show format but it allows the audience to heavily engage in each show and keep them playing along. It's a good audience experience that we are pretty pleased with. Also, it's a format which lets us roll up our sleeves to show that the show is truly being made up on the spot. We've even done murders in space!

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