Impro FX: Men With Coconuts

Sat 2nd – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Catherine Edwards

at 09:48 on 12th Aug 2014

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The format of Impro FX's show will be familiar to most fans of improvised comedy; a range of sketches and games evolved out of audience suggestions to create bizarre scenarios. The scenes were varied, as the men used classic improv games as well as incorporating some new tricks, closing with a musical re-enactment of the relationship of a couple in the audience.

What made Men With Coconuts stand out was the energy and confidence with which they rose to the challenge. Excellent performances were delivered by Harry Gooch, who took on the role of host and built up an easy rapport with the audience, and Will Nameeh, whose comic timing was the highlight of several scenes – particularly one which incorporated an audience member's Twitter feed.

The players worked well as a team, helping each other out and rescuing scenes which could have fallen flat in the hands of a more easily phased cast. They were utterly unafraid to make themselves the butt of the joke or put their dignity on the line, and came across as extremely likeable and quick-witted, creating funny scenes even from the more questionable audience suggestions.

Audience participation was the core ingredient and also major risk of the show, but this never felt forced or uncomfortable. One or two of the ideas didn't really seem to get off the ground, but the players kept things moving through the less funny scenes and were able to reach a punchline. Overall, the cast were quick and confident enough to deal with minor setbacks and assess whether an idea was working or not.

They kept the laughs coming for the entire hour, and although few of the jokes were especially memorable or side-splitting, in a show so entirely dependent on a responsive audience even the few were a huge achievement. The performances were competent throughout and successfully avoided the awkward silences that are always the danger of improvised comedy. I got the impression that with a slightly more vocal audience, the Men would have been able to showcase their talents even more.

There may be plenty of comedy and improvisation to choose from at the Fringe, but with Men with Coconuts you'll be in good hands and guaranteed an enjoyable afternoon.

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Ciaran Stordy

at 10:32 on 12th Aug 2014

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This improv troupe is not just comfortable on stage, it basks there. Their show “Men with Coconuts” comprises a series of improvised sketches which exhibit a diverse theatrical skill-set. It is subtle comedy that, rather than assume vulgarity outright, softly hints at it: a front-row couple’s romantic origin is re-enacted and mocked without resorting to disagreeably bawdy references; an unsuspecting spectator’s querulous tweets are seized for cheeky dialogue; cultural differences between North and South England are parodied in song. All in good taste and made exquisitely so by potential offence being avoided.

The troupe’s ironic FX label is an echo of the show’s quality. Very few special effects, or props, are made use of to extract laughter. In other words, the improv is good enough to fly without shiny gadgets which is what makes this show so good.

Laughs are guaranteed, but not every sketch is funny. A souped-up game of charades expressed through audience-prompted impersonation falls flat, drags on, leaves an awkward strain in the air. Sometimes they give in to hearty laughter at jokes that have not found appreciation beyond the stage. These flaws, however, find occasion rarely and are outweighed by many charms. The four players of Impro FX ooze confidence in the limelight and tease each other without constraint, as if nobody were watching, yet are alert to their spectators. If there is any sign of displeasure or boredom in the audience, they move on quickly. Prancing about the stage with confidence, they are ready to leap over complications in their performance like spry goats among mountain crags.

The group, as befits those of its kind, interacts with the house, and stammering individuals are often picked to play roles in the show. This interaction is friendly rather than intrusive, affiliated more with the cajoling tactics of amiable magicians than the aggressive inroads of comedians. An audience is encouraged to feel at ease.

“Men with Coconuts” is a lighthearted, almost hilarious sketch concept by a group of self-assured friends who delight in each other’s company, thereby making themselves delightful to watch.

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