EFR - Reviews of Absolute Improv!

Absolute Improv!

Fri 2nd – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Amber Segal

at 04:04 on 4th Aug 2013

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The extent of my knowledge of improved theatre stems from a couple of reruns of ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ and some vague memories of doing drama at school. In addition to this, as far as I’m concerned, no two words are more spine-chilling than ‘audience participation’, so it was with trepidation that I entered ‘Absoloute Improv’. After a worryingly chirpy start, however, the four members of To Be Continued all came across as so amiable my fears gradually dissipated as I settled in for some on-the-spot comedy.

On the whole, the sketches were very much enjoyed by the cheerful audience; the show had a comfortable and gentle feel to it. Although there were a couple of gags based on nationality and funny accents, it never veered into the realms of the offensive or went for totally cheap laughs. Impressively, they managed to keep the ‘family friendly’ rating despite a scene involving a sex therapist and Tom Jones. The games were varied and kept up a fun pace. By the end, the show had become completely surreal, the four conducting an entire sketch involving a mime/gibberish version of Chinese whispers.

All were quick on their toes and, apart from some struggling with the ‘alternate word’ game, there were no obvious blunders or ‘mistakes’ (not that you can really have mistakes in improv) and no sketch fell flat. Lauren’s quick character changes in one game were particularly funny, as was the direction to act as a mermaid. Repartee with the audience is one of the most important factors in this sort of performance and they luckily had a willing crowd full of suggestions. These included a rather ominous ‘asylum’ called out by a surprisingly young attendee and the traditional nomination of ‘cheese grater.’

Although not ground-breaking (definitely in the familiar territory of those drama lessons) it was an amusing way to spend an hour and I would imagine very successful with families and younger audiences. Personally, I found the comedy was not quite laugh-out-loud but the atmosphere was light-hearted and friendly, some moments definitely deserving more than a chuckle. Improvising is terrifying but ‘To Be Continued...’ displayed their skills with good humour and an unassuming smile.

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Natasha Hyman

at 09:44 on 4th Aug 2013

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Sitting in a conference room-turned-makeshift studio in the back of the Radisson Hotel, with Justin Timberlake music blaring out, I had a sense that the team behind ‘Absolute Improv!’ would be a bit off-the-wall. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for the hyper, sickly sweet quartet that constitutes ‘To be continued...’ For a group that boasts four and five star reviews from previous fringe appearances, they unfortunately failed to deliver the hilarity and magic of which improv, when at its best, is capable.

As the four actors took their places on the blacked out stage, they began the show with a cheesy ‘why’s it all gone dark?!’. I was then confused and a bit alarmed by the sheer gaudiness of the troupe, who appeared in clashing colours. Lauren began addressing us in shrill tones, whilst the rest of the troupe compulsively giggled, all four coming across as forcefully child-like.

We were then taken through a series of improv games. These were all interesting ideas, their slick delivery owing much to the group evidently being familiar with one another and well-practised. Occasionally the actors brought a new dimension to the exercises; an imitation of a shoddy attempt at a Scottish accent was particularly funny. However, for the most part, the actors lacked the momentum needed to push the exercises into an interesting place. I suspect this was because they played it safe. When the audience suggested a sex therapist/sex addict scenario, we were nervously informed that ‘this is a family show, so we’ll only take it so far’. Improv flourishes where there are no boundaries. By putting up these barriers to their performances, the cast limited the creative potential of the scene, which ended up being trite and, eventually, stuck, the cast listing in order to get to the song they were meant to sing in the scenario.

The show ended with a surreal experience, where the cast attempted to communicate an object, place and occupation to each other through mime and a (seemingly defunct) spattering of gobbledygook. The actors were more intent on over-acting their parts as excitable children than communicating through mime. With the object of the exercise pushed to the side, I couldn’t help but feel I’d stepped into a distasteful Moomins-on-acid film.

Essentially, I think this cast didn’t do their improv sufficient justice. There were flashes of creative brilliance; the cast evidently do have the confidence and ability.

The show was completely sold out, which saddened me. Either this group is not living up to their past performances, or the audience members aren’t aware of the potential for improv to be absolutely hilarious, which it can (and should) be.

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