The Oxford Imps

Thu 2nd – Mon 27th August 2012


Leah Eades

at 10:12 on 5th Aug 2012



It’s always hard to review improvised comedy – but it’s gotta be a hell of a lot harder to perform. Bouncing off each other and the audience, these young comedians spend an hour of their day, every day, trying to be funny by the seats of their pants. No show is ever the same two days running. The Shakespearean adaptation that I witnessed yesterday – “The Bacon of Liverpool” – was very entertaining, but tomorrow it could be “The Bras of Mars” or “The Candle-Makers of Loch Ness” or “The Caterers of The Olympic Village”, and your guess is as good as mine as to how that goes down. All I can say is that, based upon the talent and energy I’ve seen, it probably will be pretty damned funny.

The Oxford Imps sell their own brand of improvisation as being in the same style as “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”, with a mixture of games and scenes. Having performed at the Fringe annually since 2004, they’re also something of Fringe veterans, and already shows are selling out. My expectations of them were high and, as the troupe cavorted their way onto the stage accompanied by high-octane music and the show warmed up with everyone giving poor Terry in the front row a resounding round of applause (and cheers. And wolf whistles.), I felt ready for a fast-paced and funny hour.

One hour later, I left feeling tickled, but not overwhelmingly so. The Imps began with a story-telling game which somehow ended up revolving around the Smurfs moving to Edinburgh with all the Beatles (even the dead ones) and defeating a wizard, and this got a fair few giggles from the audience. This was followed by scenes based around audience suggestions in different styles of genre, and Tom Skelton particularly stood out due to his ability to make the audience break down with laughter using just his facial expressions. I particularly enjoyed the Imps’ own unique take on a charity single - “If a mythical creature’s bothering you/ Just flush it down the loo!” is a rousing and moving chorus by anyone’s standards, and the troupe are definitely adept at combining musical skills and accents to their repertoire.

However, I’ve got to say that ultimately, although I enjoyed my hour spent with the Imps, it didn’t stand out to me as a must-see. This is a talented group of young people, for sure, and they did succeed where many others here at the Fringe so abysmally fail – being funny – but compared to the rave reviews of other student troupe 'The Improverts', I can’t enthuse to quite that level. Of course, the Oxford Imps do have a great reputation, and perhaps the day I saw them they were merely good whereas usually they shine – but such is the way of improvised comedy. As I said, you never know what you’re getting one day to the next.


Chelsey Stuyt

at 12:16 on 5th Aug 2012



The Oxford Imps took to the stage in a flurry of frenetic dancing that raised the energy bar up to a height that they were ultimately unable to maintain. Although their wit blasted through the theatre like lightning, the games they played were all static, “let's stand around and say clever nonsense” ones that left the audience cackling at the wit, but ultimately unengaged.

This problem was exacerbated by their very first game, “DIE”, in which the performers quite literally stand in a line and spout clever nonsense. I'm not saying it wasn't entertaining, nor am I saying it wasn't a brilliant display of comedic wit, but the first game should be an audience energizer and “DIE” is not that. However, never before have I seen this game played with such a range of spanners thrown into the works. From speed changes to genre changes, accents, and removing the letter M, the Imps showcased their truly impressive mental and verbal dexterity.

The lack of physicality continued to affect the show, particularly in the longform Shakespeare play. In one particular scene, Ed Scrivens (in the only standout performance) reached out to grasp the hands of Lucy Shenton - a move that brought a sudden heart and weight to the show. But she blocked this offer, dropped his hands, and the scene died right then and there.

There is no doubt that the Oxford Imps are one of the most talented Improv troupes at the festival, but their lack of physical offers (even something as simple as striding about the stage) left this reviewer unengaged. A shame, for perhaps in a larger space the Imps would have truly been able to shine.


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