Mission Suggestible

Tue 16th – Sun 21st August 2011

reviews

Craig Slade

at 14:30 on 21st Aug 2011

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Improvisational comedy – the final frontier of comedy, one might think. On the spot – here’s a prompt – come up with something hilarious! It’s a skill, nay – an art, and one that very few possess in any quantity and quality. Whilst today’s offering from Shellshock was pleasant to watch, they still need to work on their skills to reach the dizzying Ross-Nobleian heights that Edinburgh deserves.

The troupe is made up of eight improvisers and this show follows them in a spy-themed romp across Europe to the Ukraine where something bad is bound to be happening. At least, that’s the flavour I got; it felt as if this was the gist of all of their shows, and that there was in fact very little that was ‘improvised’ about the comedy we saw – which, if I am correct, made what we did see quite poor. For twenty minutes we followed three agents with whimsical names through exotic locales that seemed oddly planned, and in fact the only parts of the act that were definitely improvised were the themes “banana” and “windmill” suggested by audience members. Windmills as a theme ended very quickly, and bananas were simply used as a commodity that could have been replaced by almost anything without particularly affecting the storyline or the improvisation. When audience members suggested complex and difficult things to improvise, they were given up in favour of the easier themes that were suggested.

Our compère for the show gave a disappointingly lax performance. Whilst one might think that coming up with something witty to say between sketches that are following some sort of trend might not be the most complex of tasks, she certainly seemed to be making a meal of it. One break she simply repeated the last line of the previous sketch and continued – “let’s see what happens!” before allowing the action to continue, giving the improvisers very little time to prepare what happened next and we were left waiting for several agonising seconds.

I would have liked the entire show to have taken on the style of the first half, during which audience suggestions were regularly taken and improvised to; later on in the show this didn’t happen at all – and I don’t think I was the only one disappointed by this. Even during the more improvised sections, the sort of comedy being performed was the sort I’ve seen at improv shows before, making it less edgy and more clichéd. However, the show was not mediocre throughout; Agents Swann, Beanstalk and Pinball gave good performances, particularly when they would bring up little well-remembered character traits from earlier in the performance. An enjoyable piece of improv on the whole, if a little unimaginative.

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David Knowles

at 14:56 on 21st Aug 2011

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The premise of Mission Suggestible is fairly simple: several competent comedic actors perform an improvised spy play for your entertainment. I am happy to report that, by and large, it works. The energy is admirably maintained throughout, although some members of the troupe are clearly a lot more talented than others.

An interesting point to note is that the show actually contains a lot less improvisation than the title suggests and several audience suggestions were ignored entirely. The ‘plot twist’ was completely forgotten by the performers. The compére also lacked energy and the requisite amount of concentration to be completely convincing.

Structurally the show is very sound. The spies spend half the show in ‘spy academy’ which is an entertaining excuse for the performers to indulge in improvisation games. This section of the show is definitely hit and miss as the entire ensemble is used. This meant that the games benefited from the talent of some of the performers and suffered from the inclusion of others. Half way through the show however the audience were able to pick their favourite three spies (obviously the funniest members of the cast were chosen) and an ‘improvised’ spy show was created. On the plus side this meant that the spies were hilarious, the downside was that the opposing group of characters (villains, etc) were significantly less amusing.

Shellshock’s show is solid and provides a good hour's entertainment. It has its problems no doubt; the disparity of ability, underused tech and a weak compére but manages to convince and be amusing nonetheless. The energy is lovely and the quick wit of some of the performers very funny indeed. This is not the greatest improvised comedy show at the fringe by any means but it is a darn sight better than the turgid majority.

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