Our murder mystery format involves a scripted start and a scripted end but the middle bit, where teams question the suspects is all improvisation. For some actors this is a real challenge; some like improv and others are wary of it.
The main rule of acting in murder mysteries is that you do not invent as story involving one of the other suspects which they do not know about. Obviously if you do it may trip them up when they come round to meet that team or table. You can use known stories, or you can create a complete red herring using characters that you make up. Many actors are extremely good at doing this.
The characters in a murder mystery typically start out as respectable members of society. They may be solicitors, aristocrats or industrialists. As the plot unravels they are like onions that are peeled away to reveal a character capable of murder. This involves a journey into a characters dark side. With that comes tricks that can be employed to get out of trouble, an alcoholic will have black outs, a solicitor can claim client confidentiality and an industrialist can say that they have people who deal with such trivial matters. It is a matter of deflection. Then they can discretely check with their team leader to see what angle they should take. However, those attendees who are on the ball may not accept a brush off, and this is where the game becomes interesting. If the other actors see this happening they can move in to help their team mate out of a corner. Some of our best evenings feature this sort of sparring with some very impressive people.
So there are tricks that can be employed when improvising, but the real trick is teamwork from the actors themselves. Some of us have a few hundred shows behind us and when we have a really competitive and, it has to be said, intellectually combative group it can be an extremely fulfilling evening for the actors as well as the clients.
Improvisation can be a very useful skill for corporate teams to develop, so if this is of interest please contact us to find out what we can do.