MICF 2016: Martin Dunlop in MURDER, HE SPOKE

This one-man murder mystery pleased its fans

By Margaret Wieringa

Welcome to the estate of Howling Grange, where there has been a murder – Lady Hamblin has met an untimely death, and some non-policeman investigator has decided to get to the bottom of it.

Murder He Spoke.jpg

Martin Dunlop wrote and performed this exhaustive forty-five minute one-man show and he is certainly a man of the pen. His dialogue is often clever and witty, but unfortunately some of his lines were lost in the performance space. This is my first time in the Pleasance House, a beautiful building, and this indeed is a beautiful room with gorgeous floorboards – that unfortunately makes for terrible acoustics.

Murder mystery as a show concept is professedly not original, and Martin plays on this with a script heavily referencing pop-culture detectives from his despised Sherlock Holmes to the relatively obscure Pie in the Sky. However those tales of mystery generally made sense, whereas I confess I became totally lost in this one.

Somehow, if this is possible, I fear the script seemed to be both underwritten and overwritten. In paying homage to this iconic genre, there needed to be a clearer direction through the performance so that – even keeping the absurd nature of the piece – there is some plot satisfaction for the audience. But I also felt the dialogue needed to be trimmed right back – there was a lot of repetition that could have been worked around to have things revealed more cleverly. Unfortunately the transitions between characters and the transitions between scenes also felt really clunky and took away from the flow of the performance. Perhaps having a professional director step in during the process to help draw the performance pieces together, or even working with a second performer would have allowed the cleverness and potential of the script to really shine.

Having said all of that, the night I attended the room was full and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance, laughing long and loud. So even if Murder, He Spoke didn’t quite work for me, this show might prove to delight the armchair detective in you this 2016 Melbourne Comedy Festival.

Where: Pleasance House, Level 4, 178 Collin St

When: 5-17 April, 9:15. No shows Monday nights

Tickets: http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/murder-he-spoke-martin-dunlop