REVIEW: Murder Village – An Improvised Whodunnit, Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Detective Inspector Owen Gullet’s cottage overlooks the lush green of the town of Murder Village, a village with murder on its mind. He’s joined by local busybody, Miss Jemima Marmalade, to solve the crimes currently occurring most days, as part of the Comedy Festival.

Murder Village is a revolving cast of local improvisors, known for their work in the Big Hoo-Haa or Impromptunes, and every night new characters are introduced and the audience are asked who to kill and for an object that will become an important clue. (Because it’s 2023, these bits of audience participation are through a QR code on the wall – not people shouting at the cast before the show starts, as was tradition.)

The night I went, the story involved a train mechanic (who didn’t know anything about trains), a local Englishman with a suspicious accent, a melodramatic fop who seemed to be allergic to everything, and a collector of glassware who bottles up all his memories and emotions.

As with most improvisation, the show gets more clever and more convoluted the longer it goes on – but that’s where the humour is. In long-form improvisation, the performers need to keep their characters and the story in their head, while dealing with twists and turns that are out of their control. Owen is a bumbling detective trying to put the pieces together but Miss Marmalade is much more on the ball.

Improvisation is a high-wire act even in short games but it was impressive to watch the actors pull this story together over an hour and give us a satisfying conclusion and pay-off. Remarkably funny.

- Keith Gow, Theatre First

Murder Village commits murder and comedy at the Butterfly Club as part of the Comedy Festival until April 13th and then pops up again and again, throughout the year.