The Improv Musical

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Alex Green

at 11:57 on 11th Aug 2014

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Acting in an improv show is a risky business, especially when your improv show in question is a musical. In a performance of any variety, night-to-night, your audience response can differ massively. Improv Musical relied on this audience interaction to provide its key characters and song titles and played wonderfully well to this common hazard.

The shows host, Matthew Gill, was on hand and armed with a whiteboard to pause the action when more plot details were needed. He said that the night’s show was an especially weird one. I couldn’t disagree. On the moon, two rival wig makers battled it out in a catwalk showdown with a plot involving bees, space pigs and a gap yah backpacker with a daddy who is revealed to be governor of the moon. Strange indeed, but hilariously so.

Dressed in simple coloured t-shirts in preparation for any eventuality; it was a breath of fresh air to see the actors, just behind the stage, plotting the musical's next turn. This gave the sense that there was no pretence involved in the show. Both the actors and the audience were the participants. Andrew Pugsley played the role of posh backpacker with aplomb, as did Jim Burroughs who, as the dominant player in the moon’s wig industry, supplied innumerable witty one-liners. Burroughs gave the highlight of the show with a number entitled ‘That’s How You Model’ that had him strutting across the stage like he had been pulled straight out of Monty Pythons’ ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketch.

Both actors mentioned were also the stand-out vocal performers. On a few occasions some of the other players would go slightly off key or fail to provide enough variety in their lyrics to keep the songs witty and sharp. Yet, under the conditions defined by the crowd, the whole cast performed with one eye on the plot's progression and the laughs kept on coming.

There was noticeably less corpsing in the performance than in any other improv show I have seen. This was fortunate, seeing as doing so mid-song would have broken the show’s natural feel. The setting provided some easy but practical laughs with lines like ‘…out of this world’ and ‘this is lunar-cy!’

People don’t often go to improvisation shows, or musicals for that matter, looking for emotive depth or a classic story line. The Improv Musical provided neither. What it did provide was a thoroughly enjoyable and raucous tale that broke down the fourth wall between actor and audience.

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Amber Roberts

at 12:02 on 11th Aug 2014

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It’s easy to be sceptical about how good an ‘Improv Musical’ could be. Cheesy songs. Without preparation. Awkward you might think. But it surpassed expectations in an impressive and hilarious way. The audience was given jurisdiction to choose the title, location and characters. So this was ours:

Title: Where Wigs can fly Location: Wig Factory on the moon Characters: Backpacker, Flying Astronaut Pig

If you were them you’d probably be bricking it. But the musical maintained a story-line, and some ridiculous and ludicrous wit.

The first song was entitled ‘Wiggy Piggy’ and was sung by Jim Burrows - an endearing guy with a big white afro - Siobhan Brennan, a nice looking blonde girl. They immediately made the crowd giggle with explanations of how wigs were a ‘serious business’ and a ‘noble profession.’ The show often bordered on ludicrous (in a good way), with wigs being filled with bees that could walk ‘or fly’ across the catwalk. Extrapolations such as honeybooboo came from these lines.

It has to be said that Jim Burrows almost carried the show, coming up with many of these one-liners almost on the spot. His catwalk in the improvised song ‘That’s how you model’ also proved unbearably funny, as he almost clawed and frog-danced across the stage.

Andrew Pugsley, played the posh gap-yah stereotype, Tarquin, (which presumably he plays in most performances) very well. His Daddy apparently ‘owns’ the moon and he’s on his third gap yah because ‘apparently Universities don’t accept bribes anymore.’ He suited the character and made it work with the moon, wig and pig themes seamlessly. An impressive feat.

Even when asked to perform gospel music, the cast and pianist rose to the challenge, expressing words like ‘Preach it’ and ‘Oh Lord’ in between wig and pig mutterings, with maintained passion. This got a great audience reaction and participation. It was humour that all ages could appreciate and engage with.

The cast whispered and discussed ideas for the performance at the back of the stage very professionally and intelligently, which may be the reason why it was hard to know which parts were remotely prepared and which weren’t because everything ran so seamlessly. Every member of the cast, was on the ball, and kept the show running at a professional pace. A musical that is not remotely predictable, but therein lies its charm.

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