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Locomotive for Murder: The Improvised Whodunnit

Pinch Punch Theatre

The Mix, Theatr Clwyd, Mold

March 12-16, 2024; 1 hr 30 mins

(Also York Theatre Royal, May 15)

Train of Death - and mangled plot - for Pinch Punch Theatre in Locomotive for Murder
Train of Death - and mangled plot - for Pinch Punch Theatre in Locomotive for Murder

The premise of Locomotive for Murder is simple enough: to use an existing framework for a murder mystery and use audience suggestions to fill in the detail to produce an improvised comedy. The execution, however, isn't quite as easy.

The basic storyline is simple: there are four people on a train and one of them is murdered, leaving three suspects. On the train is a detective, who also acts as a type of narrator and talks directly to the audience.

The detail is what makes it all come to life. The audience is asked a series of questions and the answers are incorporated into the storyline, which can produce great comedy. The destination of the train on the night I attended was Rhyl, but the detective "misheard" this at first, thinking it was Rio. Several times cast members said they wanted to go to Rio, but had boarded the wrong train and were en route to Rhyl instead.

The cast - Angela Eyton as Sally Sparks, Emma Lowther as Delila Dummy, Lottie Davies as Duchess Meryll of Pantymwyn, Sam Martin as Cid Thetic and David Fenne as the detective, Hugh Dunnit - is uniformly excellent; great as a team and highly effectively as individuals too, with great inventiveness in their ability to include as many audience ideas as possible. Even the identities of victim and killer were chosen by those watching; the murderer being picked at random. This highlighted the need for four possible endings, with cast members required to think on their feet in responding appropriately to the circumstances. In a nice touch at the end, the audience was also asked to suggest the killer, but at our performance they got it wrong.

If there is a problem with the show, it is the degree to which audience members try to get involved. At the performance I saw, onlookers entered into the spirit of things a little too well at times, the result being occasionally bizarre suggestions that were difficult for the cast to turn into comedy. One made-up character was a chicken, a vicar and a therapist at the same time, which sounds comic but left lines occasionally falling flat. Luckily such events were rare, and most of the suggestions proved hilarious.

The company, Pinch Punch Impro, offers enthusiasm and even mixes with the audience afterwards, keen to please. If this performance is anything to go by, they deserve greater success.

More info and tickets here


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