Murder Village review by Bec Johnston

 *****stars

Everyone loves a good detective story. Crime fiction has been capturing imaginations for decades – inspiring novels, plays, films, podcasts, and now… A 55-minute improv stint at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. We are welcomed into Murder Village, situated, for the time being, at Campari House on Hardware Lane. The ache induced by the many flights of stairs to the theatre only intensifies the ache for hard-hitting, dramatic noir storytelling.

This isn’t the hit whodunit’s first time around. Murder Village delighted sold-out crowds in last year’s Fringe, as well as 2019’s Comedy Festival. This is a format that has been tried and tested, cleverly folding in suggestions from the audience into the very fabric of the show. We are asked for potential murder weapons, as well as our pick of both victim and murderer. The story is set by popular vote, giving every scene a delightfully participatory feel. When the victim lays splayed on the floor, it is the audience that has put them there.

A potentially macabre conceit is made light thanks to the work of seven talented and funny improvisers. Improvisation is the game of the brave and the deranged – an art form that most avoid at all costs, for fear of utter social pariahtude.  It is, then, completely enthralling to watch performers who can do it, and do it well.

The ensemble of Murder Village were varied and unique, each performer lending their own elements of insanity to a murky web of motive and mystery. There were clearly guidelines to be followed, but such were the skills of all involved that the audience could not tell where script started and spontaneity ended.

Lliam Amor and David Massingham played off one another expertly as the detectives in charge, given the task of weaving together a cohesive conclusion to an hour of criminal mayhem. Jason Geary charmed as the slippery WB Bebebe, tempered only by the feminine wiles of one Sophie Kneebone as the sensual senior, Clarice Trinket. Louisa Fitzhardinge was the headstrong librarian-turned-murderer, and Bri Williams was the cutest little communist you’ll ever see (barring Karl, of course). All of these threads brought together by the improvisational musical stylings of Jaron Why, who sat dutifully tinkling along even before the audience found their seats.

If you are in the market for some light improvisational fare this Fringe Festival, you’ll not want to go past Murder Village without stopping in. Your chances of meeting a cruel fate may be disproportionately high, but so are your chances of a killer night out.

Performances: 5/5

Costumes: 4/5

Sound: 4/5

Lighting: 3/5

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