Shaken Not Stirred: The Improvised James Bond Film

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Hannah Sanderson

at 02:46 on 22nd Aug 2016

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As a total newbie to improvised comedy I was unsure what to expect as I queued for this show. The reviews I read and the praise of a returning enthusiastic audience member who assured me “you will struggle to give this a bad review”, filled me with hope. And he is right, I do indeed struggle.

As the audience enter they are confronted with a totally bare stage and a band playing Bond classics. The music immediately helps to set the mood and the musicians (Joshua James and Chesca Forristal) should be commended on their instrumental covers of the famous themes. After the audience settle the cast descend with clipboards asking random members to think of witty Bond film titles to provide the theme of the upcoming play. This is certainly not the only audience interaction either, as Dom O’Keefe calls for silence both cast members begin to scatter the audience with props, providing an explanation for each and asking the possessor to throw them into the mix whenever they feel like it.

The strong relationship between the cast members is immediately apparent and their complete lack of inhibitions about ridiculing each other constantly provides comic material. This banter continues throughout the show as the actors frequently try to catch each other out. The comedy is only increased through the evil looks the pair exchange as one of them presents the other with an impossible situation.

Both actors show impressive ability at switching between a wide range of roles and managing to illicit laughs through both caricatures and truly awful puns. Bond films often raise a lot of controversial issues over political correctness and sexism. The way O’Keefe and Alexander Fox poke fun at the franchise’s entrenched nature make their play even more enjoyable. Another aspect was the intelligence of the comedy, rather than it being simply slapstick or ridiculous it appears to be cleverly thought out which is impressive for the small amount of time they have to prepare.

The only criticism I would really have would be that despite being so eager to get suggested themes at the beginning they barely mention them throughout. References to the setting and ‘James Bond’s biggest secret’ are thrown in carelessly at random. At certain points it seems particularly forced and actually would have been better not to mention the themes at all rather than wedging them in for the sake of it.

On the whole this is a thoroughly enjoyable production which is skilfully acted by two talented comedians. I recommend it to anyone as it is well worth your time. Start thinking of your James Bond puns today and watch them hilariously enacted for you tomorrow.

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Naoise Murphy

at 09:28 on 22nd Aug 2016

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The James Bond films are a perfect choice for affectionate improvised lampooning. Everyone has some idea of the tropes repeated ad nauseum in the classic movies: foreign-accented villains, airheaded love interests, car chases, gadgets, cocktails. For Bond fans, this show is a must-see. For everyone else, it is still accessible, and worth a watch for some very clever improv.

The performer/directors Alexander Fox and Dom O'Keefe have great stage presence and a crucial understanding of the absurdity of improvised comedy in general. It is clear that they are having fun, so the audience do too. Some of the best gags come from the fact that there are only two of them onstage (necessitating some creative multi-roling), so the show never feels incomplete for lack of a large cast.

The interactive section at the start, gathering audience suggestions for the show which follows, is probably the most amusing part. Suggested titles are requested (we end up with ‘From Yorkshire Without My Wallet,’ which leads to a bizarre War of the Roses-inspired plot), a country is chosen at random from a map (Nigeria – "nothing controversial ever happens there"), a Bond is selected (Connery), and given a dark secret (he has never been on a date that wasn’t from Tinder). In addition, audience members are asked to intervene during the show, creating chase sequences or romantic scenes whenever they feel like it.

Costumes and props are used effectively, and the use of shadow puppets to create the chase sequence is a great idea. Just the right amount of preparation seems to have been done – nothing feels rehearsed. Inevitably though, several of the attempted jokes fall flat. This is easy to forgive in improv, but still disappointing in the moment.

The performers create some wonderful comedy moments by playing off cultural sensitivities. Jokes based on their Nigerian setting tread a fine line, but the performers work with this to tease the audience and craft some enjoyable moments (the Norwegian-Cockney-Nigerian accent springs to mind). A highlight is their intelligent treatment of the role of women in the Bond films, which mocks the 1960s attitudes that seem to persist throughout the franchise ("I’ve just been abducted – it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me!").

With excellent music provided by Joshua James on piano and Chesca Forristal on guitar, seamless tech by Oliver Mills and a creative opening title sequence projected on to the stage, 'Shaken Not Stirred' offers fairly high production value. It is just a shame that the crucial improvised part of the performance felt lacking in polish. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining hour of enjoyable silliness.

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