“ Being performed at The Vault in Edinburgh. „
This year's small-scale Fringe offering from improv troupe Dead Man in a Box, Who Killed Dead Man in a Box? is an entirely improvised murder mystery that involves the audience and tests the performers' mettle and reaction time in making sure the hour-long performance is actually any good.
With the exception of tried and tested performers, improvised comedy always brings an exciting element of risk, but from the opening scene it's clear that the team are experienced and adept at thinking on their feet while creating characters pretty much from scratch, even if the guy who takes on the lead role of detective is clearly head and shoulders above the others, whose backgrounds seem to be based more in acting than comedy.
This doesn't present a problem, as the detective is more than capable of extracting laughs from any scene, and when his cohorts are in the zone and able to bounce off each other, it makes for a highly entertaining show that's all the better for providing each audience with a unique theatrical experience.
That's not to say the team doesn't fall back on a couple of safety guidelines, just to make sure this isn't a complete shambles. The play follows a loose structure beginning with interactions between the suspects in the aftermath of the pivotal murder, followed by the detective's individual questioning of each. These scenes are intercut with flashbacks before the final denouement. And while it may be obvious that the escalating nature of the plot means that the final, most likely suspect is going to be the who what dunnit, it's fascinating, tense and even a little exhausting seeing the decision making process occurring in the later scenes between performers who are aware they have to bring the chaotic events to some kind of coherent resolution.
The action is decided at the onset by asking the audience for three basic criteria of location, the profession of the deceased, and the cause of death. After this, the performers are on their own. Without a script, this is naturally a hit or miss show with some scenes that just don't really work, but occasional smatterings of comedy gold are guaranteed, and made all the more satisfying for their off the cuff nature. The low ticket price of £6 helps too, and makes any criticisms all the more redundant.
If this wasn't your kind of thing, it might be the next day. However generically similar each performance may prove to be, this is one Fringe show that would certainly merit a second outing, if only they hadn't left so early.
Murder mystery production.