The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is back in full force for 2022, and so are the crimes at Murder Village. Found at The Butterfly Club during selected hours up various flights of stairs, admittedly, my visit to Murder Village this week was my first.
Not long after my arrival, guests were encouraged by a single detective to scan a QR code for access to a form where audiences can decide the following: who should be the killer, who should be killed, the weapon of choice, and a tell-tale clue.
Through the guidance of veteran sleuths – Detective Inspector Owen Gullet and Monsieur Aragon Pewter played respectively by David Massingham and Lliam Amor, we are taken on a murder mystery adventure where we get to meet the suspects, unveil their quirks, witness the murder, hear their alibis, and watch on as two keen gumshoes attempt solve the case.
The murder mystery I witnessed revolved around an art competition involving haberdasher Doreen Taylor (Louisa Fitzhardinge) who longs to leave Murder Village despite tossing up a perfect opportunity only a few years ago, a kindly headmaster Milton Brine (Izaac Lim) who has astonishingly excellent skin for his age, a pompous yet surprisingly artistically inclined Judge Filagree Hatchett (Jason D. Geary), and finally Phyllis Good (Amy Moule), a midwife who rarely washes her hands despite her occupation and prefers to check ankles rather than wrists for a pulse (which is something I learnt you can actually do, however not while wearing shoes).
The cast that I saw perform were fantastic in their individual roles, displaying a natural chemistry together on-stage. Fitzhardinge was strangely wholesome and surprisingly relatable in her role as reluctant haberdasher and killer of the night.
Lim was believable as an old school headmaster with excellent skin, flinching whenever others would touch him in hopes that they would not age his youthful appearance. Geary as Judge Filagree Hatchett was a savage riot, messing with Lim’s character Milton Brine by shamelessly sharing that he let Brine’s now deceased wife Dorothea ‘age him’, even painting a nude portrait of her for the art competition, which revealed her ‘eyes’ that pointed in two different directions.
Moule was probably my favourite of the night as the awkward midwife admitting to switching babies around in the hospital ward to ‘test’ the parents, while letting a lonely and old headmaster hold a newborn baby that he ‘definitely cannot keep’. Massingham and Amor were also wonderfully convincing as two unlikely detectives that appeared to frequently collaborate, due to the prolific number of murders in town. Massingham and Amor doubling down as the main hosts and narrators of the night.
Even at times when you worried that perhaps the audience suggestions would overwhelm the Whodunnit team, the seasoned professionals would cast your doubts aside, effortlessly picking themselves up and carrying on with their boundless quick wit, charismatic energy, and cheeky humour.
What I love about improvised comedy is the fact that every time, no matter what, you are witnessing something new. Life can only give you so many firsts, but with improvised comedy, you’re always in for a surprise. Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit may have different detectives and suspects depending on the night you attend, but one thing’s for sure – every show two clever detectives will solve a crime in a format that works, with a murder scene that’s so impressive, it’s genius.
Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit is so funny, it should be criminal. I laughed so much; I was cackling. In any other circumstance, murder should not be this gleeful. But it is forgivable to witness how much fun these improv masterminds are having, to the point that it’s impossible not to be an accomplice. And while this was my first visit to Murder Village, it certainly won’t be my last. Although murder is indeed an unfortunate occurrence, in this instance, and for the joy of many, the collateral damage is worth it.
Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit is now on at The Butterfly Club until the 7th of April, as part of the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
For more information and ticketing, visit the links below:
Photography by Mark Gambino.