Bristol Improv Steals The Show

Wed 6th – Sun 24th August 2014


Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 17:48 on 17th Aug 2014



The Bristol Improv troupe’s show was characterised by an impressive mixture of the hilariously brilliant and the shockingly mediocre. Improv shows are tricky to navigate, mainly because there are so many of them here at the Fringe, and also because the basic premise involves making things up on the spot that are funny, and form a vaguely coherent story line– a notoriously difficult thing to get right.

For this reason, Bristol Improv did a good job. Some games, such as the one where two people are linked together and must operate as one being, either alternating words or attempting to speak together, have been done over and again, and are often more awkward than funny, as was the case today. Others, however, were fresh and exciting. The sketch where two actors’ movements were controlled entirely by two audience members was particularly amusing, and Joshua Phillips and Alice Teale who performed this were excellent.

The cast, like the sketches, were hit and miss. Phillips and Elinor Lower stood out for their spectacular comic timing and quick thinking, and many of them had their moments of glory, but others weren’t as side-splittingly hilarious. While most of the sketches were very funny once they got going, the parts in between tended to drag as the game was set up and explained.

The backing music and overall energy of the cast, along with a packed and enthusiastic audience, meant that laughs and applause were hardly sparse. That is why it was vaguely irritating to be explicitly told how to react at every moment – I resent being instructed as to when I must applaud.

Sketches worked best when they only involved a couple of people and lasted for a short time, such as the interaction between Batman and Superman by Phillips and Lower. Such scenes were short enough to remain hilarious until the end, and the small number of characters meant that the only plot holes were amusing idiosyncrasies. However, in the extended improvised narrative that closed the show, all of the cast members were involved and the story line quickly became tangled and boring, which was a shame after such an enjoyable performance.

The audience clearly had a great time, despite many of their suggestions being routinely blocked by compere Jesse Young. It was an amusing, if inconsistent show, which had moments that were pure comedy gold, played out in front of us by some incredibly talented students – Bristol Improv clearly have a lot of potential.


Georgina Wilson

at 00:08 on 18th Aug 2014



It turns out there is a surprising number of bat-related song titles, and Tom Gidman knows them all. This is fortunate, because it means he’s first to win the game in the Bristol Improv Steals the Show sketch show where three friends show up to a party with something “odd” about them that another cast members has to work out from their hints.

Tom was an admirable bat. His battiness was the choice of an audience member after several other suggestions (a sex maniac! shouted one vicious soul) for his “odd” quality had been thrown around. Possibly the worst thing about this production was the audience – compeer Jesse Young had to reject a couple of other slightly dubious suggestions for other games in order to come up with a scene that would make for comedy value.

The rest of the games were standard improv stuff that anyone making a circuit of the PBJ Fringe will have seen before: two people forming the sentences of one character, alternating word by word; a “Shakespearian” parody, an extended play as the grand finale of the evening. I should say afternoon – the show takes place at 3pm after all – but I could have sworn I heard the compere describe “our penultimate game for this evening”. Down in the basement of WhyNot? (venue by day, club by night), the well-filled audience and the boundless energy of the seven cast members provided a buzzy atmosphere which did give the event something of an evening-y feel.

The production was by no means flawless; moments of the longer play at the end floundered as the cast slightly confused each other by their own over-ambitious plot lines. The scene which parodied Shakespeare using insults based on objects taken from audience suggestions ("you’re like a washing machine,…your arguments go round and round in circles") went on too long and became repetitive.

However, the majority of the sketches contained prolonged laugh-out-loud moments, rather than the wry smirks or reluctant smiles which prevail at so many similar events. If you’re specifically looking for an improve comedy sketch show, this is definitely one to go along to.


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