‘When their work is this good, why wouldn’t you indulge?’: MURDER SHE DIDN’T WRITE / AUSTENTATIOUS – West End

In Comedy, London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

Murder She Didn’t Write – Leicester Square Theatre, London (14 October & 18 November 2018)
Austentatious – Savoy Theatre, London (4 November, 2, 9 & 16 December 2018)

Sundays are obviously the right time to catch improv companies in London and when their work is this good, why wouldn’t you indulge? I was a big fan of Murder She Didn’t Write when I first caught it earlier this year and it was little surprise to hear they’d had a successful run in Edinburgh, followed by a rebooking of the Leicester Square Theatre for a monthly residency.

Theirs is an Agatha Christie-style improvisation, taking shoutouts from the crowd for settings and murder weapons (this afternoon saw The Case of the Ice Syringe set at a plastic surgeon’s office) and then spending a good half of the running time establishing its world of batty characters, one of whom will cork it at the interval.

The use of a detective narrator figure provides ample opportunity to pick up on the jokes ripe for further milking, and I particularly enjoyed the way in which one of the unused audience suggestions of Australia Day became a well-worked recurring joke. And it is clear that there’s great chemistry in this group, mercilessly ribbing each other, egging on the corpsing and pushing their inventive improv to its limits.

This autumn also sees the return of Austentatious for a season at the Savoy – their residency goes through into December, culminating with a show on Jane Austen’s birthday. Their improvising of a ‘lost’ Austen novel based on a title offered up by the audience is an endless delight and it continues to work so very well because it doesn’t really matter whether you’re an Austen aficionado or not, the important bit is you having a sense of humour.

Indeed, with this particular show Call Me By Mr Darcy’s Name, the company’s skill was in fine display offering up jokes that worked whether you were familiar with the recent Luca Guadagnino film (though clearly the peach bit flew right over the heads of some…). For rather than getting hung up on particular fidelity to the ‘source’, there’s a delightful sense of freewheeling invention that is so cleverly done and frequently just laugh out loud hilarious.

We took in the world of double-entry book-keeping, 80s dance parties, the joys of weekend houses, sassy servants, frolics in the orchard plus the sensuality of fully-clothed swimming, via detours into human taxidermy, and enigmatic curly-wurlies. And even that doesn’t do full justice to the whole thing. On particularly fine form were accompanists Oliver Izod and Dylan Townley who were able to whip up some inspired lightning-fast musical responses, especially when evoking the rave tunes of the 80s, the 1780s that is.

I couldn’t recommend these guys more and as their individual stars continue to rise (MIA tonight were Rachel Parris who is on her own tour and Cariad Lloyd who is in rehearsals for a play), I wonder how much longer we’ll be blessed with the joys of their collaborative work. Book now!

Murder She Didn’t Write
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Jamie Corbin
Booking at the Leicester Square Theatre on 14th October and 18th November

Austentatious
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Robert Viglasky
Booking at the Savoy Theatre on 4th November, and 2nd, 9th and 16th December. Dates for their UK tour can be found here

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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."