While this farcical murder mystery romp might take its name from the American TV series, it probably shares more in common with the family favourite pastime Cluedo. Just as players of the board game have to guess who committed the crime, audience members are asked to do the same – although the real identity of the culprit plays a distant second fiddle to a multitude of puns, gags and implausible plot twists from the energetic cast of Bristol-based Degrees of Error.
The show is bookended with an intro and summation from our intrepid detective, astutely played with the appropriate derring-do and public schoolboy intonation by Stephen Clements. As well as setting the scene and providing some brief respite for the actors onstage, Clements also involves the audience by having us choose the location and theme of the mystery, as well as the identity of victim and murderer (although these remain a mystery to all but one of us).
Armed with these paltry scraps of information, the five-strong cast then set about staging a crumpet-related murder mystery in a 1920s incarnation of the Eurovision Song Contest. Clearly at home creating storylines and characters on-the-fly, the performers bounce off each other with jovial vigour, only occasionally blocking one another with their frivolous tangents and sometimes overegged wordplay.
As is to be expected from an improvised show, the storyline is fairly raggedy throughout and a lack of cohesion is sometimes present when one actor isn’t quite on the same page as another. For the most part, though, the narrative bounces along merrily enough and each character is given enough of a personality to eke out a few laughs, despite the obvious contrivance of the plot. Peter Baker is the stand-out performer, with an impressive set of lungs, a sharp sense of comedic timing and agile accent work.
At times, the cast do rely too much on silly setups and clumsily constructed jokes for their laughter, revisiting one or two call-backs one or two times more than is necessary, but for the most part they succeed in keeping energy levels up and moving things along. The technical team are also worthy of praise for cutting off scenes which don’t work – or which do, but are funnier when curtailed – to good comic effect, and despite a slapdash and slightly unsatisfactory climax, it’s rollicking enough stuff throughout.