INTERVIEW: Lizzy Skrzypiec Talks MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE

Lizzy Skrzypiec in MURDER, SHE DIDN'T WRITE. Photo Credit: Jamie Corbin

Lizzy Skrzypiec in MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE. Photo Credit: Jamie Corbin

Director and Performer Lizzy Skrzypiec talks to Frankly My Dear UK about MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE and what audiences can expect from the show

Fresh from another successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Degrees of Error’s hilarious and innovative show MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE heads back to the Leicester Square Theatre for an extended residency until November.

Using audience suggestions, evidence and ideas, MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE is a farcical murder mystery romp in which the audience becomes both author and sleuth as they are invited to help to create their very own Agatha Christie-inspired masterpiece – and watch it unfold on stage.

Every night, the talented improv company create an original and extremely comical improvised murder-mystery with one lucky audience member playing god by choosing both the murderer and victim.

Ahead of their show at the Leicester Square Theatre on Sunday 14 October, Director and Performer Lizzy Skrzypiec talks to Donna Kelly of Frankly My Dear UK about what audiences can expect from the show and why MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE is different to other improv shows out there.

Frankly My Dear (FMD): Can you start by telling us a little bit about MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE and what audiences can expect from the show?

Lizzy Skrzypiec (LS): Basically, it’s a murder mystery made up entirely on the spot. A game is afoot where one member of the audience has chosen at random, or by their own volition, a victim and a murderer and the rest of the audience has to guess. Each murder mystery is entirely unique and is made up with suggestions from the audience so if they want to see a murder mystery on the Titanic they can, or if they want to see a murder mystery on a spaceship, they can as well. We sort of set within the parameters of this 1920s era of time so it’s a period drama. It’s very much like the film CLUE.

FMD: How do you direct an improv show with no theme and no script?

LS: It’s a tough one. There is a very loose format which we’ve created that sort of tells us when to take suggestions from the audience and I’ve sort of worked out how much or how little set I’d like in the show. Also, it’s my job to run the workshops and make sure that people are improvising in the style we’ve picked, so if people are using too many modern words then it’s a directorial decision to get them to use more period appropriate language. Basically, I direct post-show in prep for the next one. You never know what’s going to happen, that’s the beauty of improv.

FMD: Where did the idea for MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE come from?

LS: I think it’s because we’re all nerds of murder mysteries really. I’ve always been a big fan of Poirot and stuff like that and Agatha Christie. At the start, we tried a few different options. We thought about westerns and we considered a futuristic sci-fi show. We’ve also got some other shows in the pipeline, we’re currently working up a fairy tale themed show. Basically, we just had a bit of a love for murder mysteries.

FMD: What makes MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE different from other improv shows?

LS: It’s the only improv show that has a gameshow feel about it so the audience play along. I don’t really know any other improv shows that do that.

The cast of MURDER, SHE DIDN'T WRITE. Photo Credit: Jamie Corbin

The cast of MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE. Photo Credit: Jamie Corbin

FMD: You perform in the show as well as direct, is it a challenge to balance the two?

LS: It is tough. Sometimes I do sit out of shows and direct from outside but if George Clooney can direct his own shows, why can’t I? That’s possible right? [laughs]. I actually co-direct at the moment with a guy called Steve Clements and he often plays the Detective or Mr White or Mr Blue so we sometimes take in turns as well.

FMD: Improv is very much based on actors running away with the performance, how do you reign them in as a director?

LS: Part of the direction is that I don’t not want to take a suggestion from the audience. Usually, we take suggestions at the beginning of the show, which gives us time standards to work towards and enough time to get the evidence out etc. But even if doesn’t fit the time period, we’ll still make it work. In fact, that’s what we workshop sometimes – ways to make suggestions work in the best way possible. Even if they reference famous people – we’ve had a lot of Donald Trump references recently and Brexit – we’ll find a way to make that work within the show. Part of my directorial style is that we try not to reign it in at all, we try to make everything work.

FMD: The show is almost entirely at the will of the audience, have you ever had some suggestions that you just can’t work with?

LS: Yes. We’ve been given events that we deem a bit inappropriate for example. Sometimes we’ll take them and subvert, but when you’re given the suggestion of an orgy, you’re not going to take it. Sometimes we’ve been given suggestions that we can subvert, so if we’re given the suggestion of ‘cock and balls’, we might set it in a restaurant called ‘Le Cock et Balls’ or something like that and it’ll be a restaurant themed murder mystery. I think the audience get the most enjoyment when you use their suggestions.

FMD: You’ve recently extended your West End Residency at the Leicester Square Theatre. Are you surprised by the success of MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE?

LS: I’m always surprised that people come and see us mess around on stage if I’m honest – but happily surprised. We’ve spent a lot of years formatting the show so the audience can enjoy it and we read reviews and feedback so we can make the show better. We’re glad that Leicester Square Theatre has kept us on because they are such lovely people to work with, they are really nice. I am a bit surprised but also thankful that some of the work is paying off.

FMD: What’s next in the pipeline for you and the company?

LS: We’ve got a whole lot of touring going on up and down the country. We’re hoping to tour a bit more as well. We’ll be there in Edinburgh 2019, that’s pretty much a given. We’ll also be working on our new formats because the murder show is one style of improv and we’re a group of improvisers hungry for a bit of variety. We’re going to try and work out this fairy tale themed version and see what we can do with that. It’s also a different type of character as you’re not restricted to humans in fairy tales so I’ll enjoy improvising as some kind of gorgon. We sometimes do a drag version of our show for Gay Pride and it’s really nice to just sometimes play a man!

MURDER, SHE DIDN’T WRITE: THE IMPROVISED MURDER MYSTERY runs at Leicester Square Theatre, London until 18 November 2018.

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1