The Revolution Will Not Be Improvised

Mon 12th – Thu 22nd August 2013

reviews

Hazel Rowland

at 05:04 on 15th Aug 2013

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The premise is a simple one. The audience provide the crime, the punishment, and the reason for fighting the revolution, and then the Cambridge Impronauts improvise the story - in the funniest way possible. The show then, is different every night, but it is clear that this group are confident in what they are doing.

This is helped largely by the direction of Alan Beaumont’s narration, which gives structure to the performance – something that may easily be lost in improvisation. He interrupts to get the story back on track, but he is not afraid of using his position to take the story off on the occasional tangent, creating new avenues for comedy. His command: “cut; to close-up of duck’s experience of having the chocolate bourbon in his mouth”, leads to the surreal but hilarious squirming of three performers screaming “Oh my God!”, and “this is so fucking crazy”, in their portrayal of the duck’s pleasure with the taste. Neither is he a bland narrator. He is repeatedly sarcastic about his colleagues’ efforts: when Martha Hawker acts out the poisoning of the villain by swimming through his veins, Beaumont remarks: “arsenic is, of course, a fish”.

In this performance, the audience have decided that the hero, played by Sam Brain, was to be punished for the crime of writing poetry. Brain therefore takes on the challenge of making up rhymes on the spot throughout. Of course this is not always successful, but consistent perfect rhymes would not have been nearly as funny. And, far more importantly, golden lines such as “It’s a biscuit palace/ in the shape of a… phallus” would have been sorely missed.

Improvised comedy can be both a risk and a safety net. A risk because none of the performers know what to expect for each show, but the audience can be more forgiving if they know that the performance is improvised. Yet would such an outlandish story have been possible if it had not been? Where else would one find the closing lines: “At least I've got a lifetime supply of ginger nuts”? Obviously, no performance of this show will be the same - which is all the more reason to go.

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Emma-Jane Manion

at 09:51 on 15th Aug 2013

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Improvisation hinges on the fear that it could crash and burn. This is a fear that grips both performers and audience. The last thing anyone wants is to be stuck in the basement of some obscure pub, nursing an over-priced pint, whilst a performer dies the most painful of comedy deaths. However, it is this constant state of mortal peril which fuels the performance. It forces performers to come up with the most entertaining situation/line/movement/sound that could possibly come from, say, the scenario of a world without biscuits. This Cambridge improv group, with a little help from a willing audience, take on this most daunting of challenges and with great success too.

It is a fast, messy and silly show. We are treated to sketchy accents, an attempt at a whole show in rhyme, and the wonderful architectural concept of a phallus biscuit palace. Led by a wearied and cynical narrator (Alan Beaumont, in a rather dashing plum waistcoat), who guides the show by making ridiculous demands of his performers. How, in fact do you express the pure joy of eating a Bourbon biscuit? Or the conversely joyless experience of growing up in Hull, biscuit-less. The narrator gives direction, preventing improvisations from floundering and eventually dissipating into awkward silence. Things are kept short and snappy. Jokes that are good enough are allowed to mature, snowball, and become even more absurd, later on.

The group work cohesively, but there are obvious weaker and stronger players. Rachel Tookey and Bella Nicholson have a knack for creating strong, funny characters off the cuff, which is a joy to watch. Their personal chemistry is something special, powering the performance. Sam Brain is constricted by only being allowed to talk in rhyme, a task other performers may quickly abandon. But she powers on valiantly, as funny in her mistakes as her successes. Martha Hawker is the weakest of the group, for this particular performance at least. However, Beaumont manages to drag comedy out of calamity with his directions, and the show does not suffer for its weaker players.

This show is funny and free. The audience laughed from start to finish. Improv needs no further endorsement than this. Go and see it, you will enjoy yourself.

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