A hilarious cross between an Agatha Christie novel and a live action game of Cluedo: Murder, She Didn't Write is an improvised murder mystery created by BIT associate company Degrees of Error. The show has been a smash hit on the Edinburgh Fringe, The West End and touring nationally. In advance of their Fringe previews at The Bristol Improv Theatre this weekend, we spoke to company technician Alex Hoyle.
1. Murder, She Didn't Write has been such a popular improv show, with even a theatre troupe in Korea asking to purchase the remake rights and for you to teach them for format. What's the key to this success?
Alex Hoyle (AH afterwards) – Being asked to create a Korean version of the show was a huge surprise!
It actually came out of being approached after one of our performances at the Edinburgh Fringe. The Fringe is a hugely tough environment to produce any show in, but the big upside is the sheer quantity of producers and artists it's possible to meet there.
This Korean producer happened to be in the audience for one of our performances – and thought the style and aesthetic of the show would be ripe for a remake. There's a huge Europhile audience out there, in the same way that something like K-Pop has a hardcore following here.
2. How has the show developed over time and how often do you make tweaks to the format?
AH: I only joined the show as Editor once it had already been around for a couple of years – but I had also seen the first version of Murder as a punter.
In short – the version I joined was already completely different to the one I initially saw, and it's now again completely different from when I joined.
Part of that is just the natural process of refinement. When you have a talented cast working on the same project for years and years, you naturally triangulate in on things that are working well in the show and gravitate away from things that are less successful.
In terms of format, most of the big conscious changes have been based in necessity.
The Detective role was originally created as a way of building a compere figure into the show, while the 2-Hour format that we currently tour was developed as a way of making a bigger, longer production that was more appealing to regional venues.
Of course, sometimes someone will just have a fantastic idea out of the blue – and everyone will say "That's going in!".
Rachael Proctor-Lane as Mrs. Gold (Left) and Caitlin Campbell as Miss Violet (Right)
3. Any juicy/funny behind the scenes stories from your most recent UK tour?
It's become a bit of a traditional that we all have a night out together on tour, whenever we travel a long distance.
Yorkshire in particular seems to have a strong pull on us, because the market towns are very beautiful to wander around while smashed.
But we're not as rowdy as we used to be. Our night-out model for 2019 now seems to be:
- Step 1 – Have a few pints in the cutest little pub that's nearby the tour venue.
- Step 2 – Raid the nearest supermarket for treats and exotic wines brands with names like 'Diablo Hill' and 'Blossom Delight'.
- Step 3 – Retire to our AirBnb and have a lively and expletive-filled debate about the merits of every local pizza restaurant.
- Step 4 – Turn on terrestrial telly and wait for the Pizza to arrive. Most recently, this time spent watching re-runs of 'Knight Rider' and shouting advice at David Hasselhoff.
Tom Bridges as Terrence Orange (Left) and Steve Clements as The Detective (Right)
4. You have a long standing relationship with The Bristol Improv Theatre as our longest running associate company. How do you feel this has let the two organisations grow?
It's great to have such a lovely and close relationship with the BIT.
I think it was always a bit of a given, since we share so many members and contacts – but we also share a lot in common in terms of improv style. A large proportion of the narrative improv shows produced in Bristol lean very heavily on the big, bold theatricality that we also use as part of Murder.
For me, Degrees as a team embodies a sort of high-camp anti-realism in how we approach stories and create characters.
I think the 'Bristol Style' of improv that people like to talk about is a synthesis between that approach and a love for silly games and play in our improv.
John Lomas as Mr. Blue (Left) and Sara Garrard, the show's musical director (Right)
5. What are you excited about doing on the night of the event?
Well, as the BIT's technical Manager it's very rare for me to be in the building as an artist rather than an employee!
I look forward to getting extremely sweaty and silly with a cast of some of my best friends, then sinking as many cocktails in the Bar as my Staff Discount will allow.
Then afterwards, we will all retire – and shout advice at Youtube videos of David Hasselhoff.
I can't bloody wait.
Credit for all photos: Paul Blakemore
Murder, She Didn't Write is on Friday 28th & Saturday 29th June, 8pm. Doors and bar open from 7.15pm. Tickets are £10 and can be bought HERE.