And the Award Goes to... - Free

Sun 21st – Sat 27th August 2011


David Knowles

at 10:29 on 22nd Aug 2011



Ice stands for ‘Improvised Comedy Ents’ and this Cambridge outfit generally deliver what they promise. As with Shellshock (Durham University’s equivalent) the same strengths and problems can be observed. ICE contains some extremely funny and competent performers, although many (perhaps the majority) are really not too funny and insist on laughing at their own jokes. This is a practice I thoroughly want stamped out in improvised comedy groups. Also, the Compére was particularly weak, lacking eloquence and confidence. A problem that ICE found was that, since there was never a streaming of the performers many scenes involved a particularly strong actor opposite a particular weak one. I would have loved to see just the true comedians on stage, if only for a few minutes, to see what they could do.

The central theme of the show is that of an awards ceremony; which leads to different improvised games for different awards. This set up (like Shellshock) works, and the theme gathers together what would otherwise be disparate strands of improvised games. However ICE has one massive problem, the central part of the show, the improvised film, just does not work. It is too long and contains far too few jokes. It was at this point that I think the performers lost the audience for a good twenty minutes. It is testament however to the skill of some of the performers that ICE managed to win us back in a hastily constructed finale.

It is difficult to particularly recommend seeing this group. I have seen a fair few just above average improvised comedy groups the last week and ICE certainly does not stand head and shoulders above anyone. However, they are funny and, importantly, free. It is thus probably worth giving ICE the benefit of the doubt. But beware, once you have seen one mediocre improvised comedy group you really have seen them all. I would recommend spending a little cash on seeing something spectacular.


Craig Slade

at 11:30 on 22nd Aug 2011



It’s interesting watching two separate student comedy improv troupes within 24 hours of one another. Durham’s Shellshock was slightly underwhelming with their improvisation skills yesterday, and seeing Cambridge’s Improvised Comedy Ents (ICE) today was good ground upon which to make a fair comparison between shows that differ so much from the majority of Fringe comedy.

The two were similar in many ways; there were certain sketches, such as the ‘guess the party guest’ and ‘change one thing’ elements that were more or less identical, to the point where this reviewer made the same audience participation suggestions in order to directly compare the two troupes; Fred Maynard’s incarnation of a man slowly turning into Yoda was hilarious, if a little semantically confused.

What gives this troupe an extra star, though, is that it has the makings of a better show. Mission Suggestible was nearly at the end of its run – this was ICE’s first night, which shows good promise of things to come, rather than a show at its peak. There were a few signs of first-night nerves, particularly in the show’s compère, but this would likely be recovered in days to come. Additionally, this show had more of the makings of what an audience would expect from an improvisation troupe. People go to an improv show (in my humble opinion) in order to suggest things to the cast and watch them struggle to deal with those things in hilarious ways. When one facetious suggestion of “euphonium” as a word for comic inspiration was well dealt with and another one of “Korfball” – where Shellshock would have fallen short – ICE did very well indeed.

And whilst there were hit-and-miss sketches (as one would expect from an improv show) and I did at one point during a sketch about carrots begin absent-mindedly sketching a carrot on my notepad, the majority of the material was quite strong – and the party guest sketch in particular was insanely funny.

If there’s an obvious way the show could have been made better, it would be through a more consistent improv theme; there wasn’t really enough cohesion in the awards ceremony ICE chose to serve as good inspiration for sketches throughout, which meant it was deviated from quite a lot. However, this didn’t damage the overall impression of the show, which makes this among the better comedy I’ve seen this year at the Fringe.


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