Culture Critic James Pettit shares his thoughts on Foghorn Improv's 'An Improvised Murder' at the Bramall.
On Thursday night at the Bramall Music Building on campus, things were getting weird. It isn’t a good idea to turn up late to any sort of show, but particularly no to an Improv night, because with no planned plot or the events that unfold are confusing enough as it is without missing the introduction. My friend and I watched a small part of the first half of the show amused but completely bemused as to what was going on.
On stage stood 6 actors from the Foghorn Unscripted production company, 5 characters within the murder mystery itself. Staged slightly aside from the main performance area with two landline telephones in front of him was Aaron Twitchen, who was playing the omniscient director/conductor/producer of this improvised meta-play. At certain times throughout the performance the phone would ring and Aaron would weave audience suggestions into the plot by means of his fictional caller, Sebastian. Laurence Saunders, as Bernard, and Kit Murdock, as Moira, stood on stage chatting in a ‘bar’, awkwardly flirting. The phone rings, Moira and Bernard freeze and the lights go out on them and light up Aaron: “Hello Sebastian? Yeah, uh huh, yeah, I agree, I do think that the Scottish are being well represented. Oh definitely, I agree Bernard needs to represent Americans with, maybe, a Southern Texan accent?” For the rest of the performance Saunders gives his best Southern drawl as he and Moira go on like nothing has happened.
'Both character features and plot details are spontaneously conjured by the brilliantly hilarious whim and imagination of the actors.'
Both character features and plot details are spontaneously conjured by the brilliantly hilarious whim and imagination of the actors. The plot they construct is a fittingly tangled web of love and hilarious situations. Craig Deeley plays an illiterate pharmacist from the West Country named ‘Gerry’ who is in love with his drug-induced assistant Margaret, played by Claire Corfield. Margaret is in turn spying on him for her local Councilman father Mr. Tom, played by Robert Lane, who suspects that Gerry is stealing money from him. Mr. Tom is in love with Moira and eventually kidnaps her. Former drug addict Moira in turn makes drugs as a side project alongside her hunt to cure cancer in Bernard’s university laboratory. Bernard has had an “unconsummated love affair” with Moira for quite some time now we’re told, whilst also having an affair with Margaret, which he initiated whilst he was supposed to be convincing her to go on a date with his best friend Gerry. Margaret is supplied drugs by Moira, who lurks outside the Pharmacy for her and also loves her. OH, and it also turns out Moira and Gerry have a child that they had put in an orphanage in “fucking Barnstaple” who they take money to. OH, and Bernard has a glass eye. OH, and Mr. Tom suffers from an unfortunate case of discharge.
'...the actors to dig themselves or each other into hilarious improvised plot holes...'
As can you can probably imagine, it is quite easy under the circumstances for the actors to dig themselves or each other into hilarious improvised plot holes. As if he were Pontius Pilate, Aaron gets the audience to shout for who they want to die (sorry Moira) as the characters freeze and pose as if in mug shot on stage. Thereafter the characters are left to construct the circumstances, clues and how the characters were all involved. Guessing who the murderer is was a close call but Margaret gets the biggest shout, and Claire Corfield took a brilliantly final comic psychotic monologue to round off the show.
I went to see Foghorn Improv not knowing what exactly to expect, yet in truth I found out you can’t expect or predict anything the comedy troupe do. I would definitely recommend them, the surreal and whacky nature of their performance which made for a hilarious night.