Improvabunga: Funny Side Up

Fri 7th – Sat 29th August 2015


Poppy McLean

at 10:28 on 15th Aug 2015



Improvabunga: Funny Side Up opened energetically with some adept comparing from the likeable, Miranda-esque Vita Fox. She assured us that the night to come would be full of marvel and magic, twists and turns, and general ad-lib excitements of all kinds. I have to admit that as the cast were introduced, each performing a – somewhat underwhelming – improv mini-scene, I was skeptical. How could the six regular humans in front of us possibly rush together a brilliant 50 minute show entirely off the back of a few questionable suggestions from the audience? As the lights came up on the never-before-seen desert-based Christmas-Fantasy ‘Four Camels for Christmas’, my expectations were pretty low.

How wrong could I be? What ensued was just under an hour of unadulterated fun: with seemingly superhuman speed, lively characters were concocted, plot lines woven, scene shifting into scene in a way which made me wonder whether the audience wasn’t planted full of stooges, and this wasn’t some elaborate (but not unenjoyable) pseudo-improv plot. Conspiracy theories aside, the cheesy and brilliantly random story which emerged held my apparently childish mind captivated, as Santa’s head elf (who had been transferred – for reasons of tax avoidance, as it emerged – to the Sahara) headed out on a whirlwind mission to save Christmas from the machinations of the holiday-hungry Tooth Fairy, complete with sidekick and intriguing – if often unhelpful – magical talismans. Each member of the cast provided entertaining personae along the way, some of the most brilliant being Fox’s nasal admin-elf Lindsay, Chris Conway’s dopey snowman, and Tom Ling’s child workaholic. The fact that the troupe created this adventure without any props or costume is even more to their credit – although many congratulations must to go to the show’s pianist, Will Tuckwell, who could usher in by turns the epic background to a monologue or the thrilling accompaniment to a battle with enviable ease.

But the show’s finest moments by far were those frequent points where the troupe’s improvised tale began to tear at the seams. To watch two characters apparently intent on a romantic union before being reminded by a sniggering audience that they were brother and sister, the long-suffering protagonist (Jake Williams) get his own name wrong, and especially Ling being forced to deliver monologues and songs at a moment’s notice at the compulsion of Tuckwell or immensely fun audience-held genre-buzzers was nothing short of hilarious, as the crowd simultaneously willed the actors on and revelled in their blunders.

The overall result was a rough diamond: a stupendously silly show with the audience in the palm of its hand; absolutely go and watch these guys if you like your evenings served Funny Side Up.


Rowena Henley

at 11:44 on 15th Aug 2015



To take on the task of an hour-long improvised sketch is no mean feat, so one must admire the Watch This Improv troupe for taking on such a challenge. My admiration, however, pretty much ends there. The performance had small glimmers of comic ingenuity but, for the most part, was clumsy and tiresome.

Our host for the evening, Vita Fox, showed an admirable enthusiasm and was somewhat successful in keeping the audience’s attention. However, Vita seemed utterly confused by what persona to adopt for the evening. The show therefore got off to a shaky start and the performance felt somewhat tainted by the awkwardness of her introduction.

I think Watch This Improv would certainly have had more success if they had decided to adopt a different approach to their performance. Shorter improvisations would have allowed for the variety that this show so desperately needed, both in terms of content and characters. It also would have provided more opportunity for audience interaction, which more often than not enhances an improv show and can cover up certain blunders during the show.

Jake Williams and Tom Ling were both commendable comic performers, but Will Jackson provided the majority of the evening’s humour. Jackon’s perceptiveness and comic timing undoubtedly added the most to the performance, especially in his role as Father Christmas. High praise must also go to Will Tuckwell, whose musical interludes seriously enhanced the show and added a level of professionalism. On the whole, chemistry between the performers, however, was severely lacking.

Watch This Improv are a company with potential for future Fringes and show genuine excitement for their difficult genre. Long-form sketch shows are notoriously tricky to master and are exclusively successful by troupes with years of experience and months of unwavering attention.

To surmise, Improvabunga was a performance where it felt as if the cast were having more fun than the audience.


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