The Improverts

Fri 3rd – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Davina Moss

at 04:15 on 4th Aug 2012

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Standing onstage and being funny is hard. The Fringe is filled with comedy, absolutely laden with people on stages trying to be funny and very few succeeding. So when you do see a show that makes you laugh, giggle or snort out loud, that left you tickled and cheerful and was thoroughly entertaining, you want to spread the word. If that show was not, as so much Fringe comedy is, written and rehearsed for weeks or even months before, but appeared from the minds of the comedians on the spot, you’ll want to tell everyone.

The Edinburgh University Improverts are an amazingly talented group of improvised comedy performers, whose one-hour show involves a series of improvising games in which two or more of the members of the group must improvise sequences based on certain preset parameters, such as beginning one’s speech with consecutive letters of the alphabet, or only speaking in phrases from a book ‘donated’ by an audience member. The creativity and dynamism of these young men was absolutely extraordinary to watch, the skill with which they work with one another and the smoothness of their performances were truly delightful. Their inventiveness simply grew and grew: the more obscure and stringent the parameters, the more fun they seemed to have in testing them, and some of the strangest sequences (“this man is smuggling prosthetic legs in bananas from Uruguay”) produced the cleverest and most enjoyable material. Smaller chuckles of appreciation were definitely directed at the sound and lighting folk, who improvised along with the show and whose witty music choices were extremely entertaining.

There were some bum notes hit, of course, scenes that the performers simply couldn’t say any more of, or moments which fell – sometimes quite spectacularly – flat, but far fewer than one might have expected given the risky nature of improvised comedy. All in all, a night with the Improverts is light-hearted but fantastically quick and witty and comes highly recommended.

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Chelsey Stuyt

at 13:36 on 4th Aug 2012

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With their Bat-Signal “i” splashed across the darkness, the Improverts killed on Friday night. The games may have been old standards, but it was the timing and decisive polish that set off this explosion of impressive comedic firepower.

The slight yet magnetic Ger kicked off the show with a shimmy and a shake. Warming up the audience until they were “piping hot”, he brought the energy and started the show with a bang. Beginning with a game called, “Space Jump”, he took the unfortunate suggestion “hand gliding”. An obviously misheard suggestion was a risky choice, one which was quickly covered up by the succeeding performers. However, this ability to pounce on the quick save and move forward proved to be the Improverts' most impressive skill.

The games ranged from audience favourites such as “Customs Official” (a guessing game), and Do Run Run (with some rather well-rehearsed synchronized snapping) and included the always difficult “Alphabet Soup” which, while ended early (only D to P), avoided the static physical pitfalls that are the real challenge of the game. The early ending was a moment of surprise, but one which showcased the Improverts' deft handling of the scene. Decisive endings, with a slap to the stage no less, kept the energy high and the audience engaged.

While blocking was a bit of a problem, particularly during “Should've Said” (we never really got to either the tiger or the massage), the flow of the show remained fast and surprisingly light-fingered. The sign of good comedy is the illusion of effortlessness – one which the Improverts carried off perfectly. The particular standout was David Elms whose soft, unassuming manner belied a sharp wit and spot-on comedic timing. He was clearly the rock on which the rest of the improvisors rested – and he is an excellent choice for such a role.

While scheduling the show at half midnight brought out the drunk hecklers, the Improverts handled the extra pressure with a strength and confidence garnered by experience. The key to good improv is making the audience feel secure and at no point did the Improverts lose control – even during the always risky “Advice Panel” game. While extended audience participation always involves taking a chance, especially with drunks in the crowd, the Improverts not only kept control, but made it one of the highlights of the show.

Easily one of the top comedy acts at the Fringe. Go see it before they sell out.

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