Bristol Improv Steals the Show

Sat 8th – Sat 29th August 2015


Rowena Henley

at 10:50 on 16th Aug 2015



Having been at the Fringe for nearly two weeks now, I have come to discover that improv, whilst somewhat entertaining in its own way, is kind of like stand-up comedy’s embarrassing younger brother: you want to like it, you’re amused by the attempts to be like its sibling, but ultimately you just wish it would grow up and quieten down.

Bristol Improv Steals The Show was full of energy and eagerness, but was also a painfully clear example of what can happen when an improv troupe lacks a fundamental chemistry between the members and a competent understanding of comedy.

The performance got off to a shaky start, with the group’s rather nervous compere unsure how to take on such a big (and drunken) crowd. The host rushed over the concepts behind that afternoon’s show and struggled to keep the audience’s attention.

Sadly, the group’s opening improv game was uncomfortably unsuccessful. After picking items from the audience, two improvisers performed a kind of monologue-cum-stand-up gag about the notebook and the gloves they decided upon. This did not go down well with the most drunken amongst the crowd, and the heckling came in thick and fast.

Luckily, the show certainly improved from there. Although the same awkwardness and unprofessionalism continued to colour the show, Bristol Improv’s games began to gain the audience back on side. This troupe showed true intelligence with ideas such as an improvised letter from Kermit the frog to Miss Piggy’s divorce lawyer and involved the audience admirably in a game about a birthday party.

Ollie Aston and Ruben Ruskin were the stand out performers of the show. Their perceptiveness and comedic timing often saved certain sketches from falling completely flat on its face. I especially enjoyed Aston’s character of an angry Australian, which avoided playing on stereotypes and showcased some wonderful comedic talent.

Bristol Improv Steals The Show had some truly brilliant ideas and small glimmers of hope for the future. However, in a show were the audience are more entertaining than the performers, one has to consider whether this is a show worthy of the Fringe. Improv is a notoriously tricky genre and, if not executed exactly right, can be an utter disaster. This troupe need to rethink their approach to their genre by beginning with the basics and learning about each other more thoroughly. Only then will they avoid the pitfalls which drags improvised sketches down to dangerous lows.


Ben Driscoll

at 14:38 on 16th Aug 2015



Excruciatingly awkward, rigid, unconvincing and with actors usually regressing back to the mindsets of infants – student improv shows can often prove hilarious for all the wrong reasons. Bristol Improv’s sadly followed this fate. Their free show at Sportsters had glimpses of fleeting sharpness and humour, but it was drowned in the inescapable sludge of shouting awfully dull lines mistaken for humour and a lack of unity between the actors.

Running onto the stage with the scared excitement of a man forced to perform knowing that there is a sniper on him, poised to shoot if he stops, Adam Wdowiak, the half-presenter and half-actor of the show managed to warm up a cheery and beery crowd for the start of the show. Improv Steals The Show, he explained, uses suggestions from the audience to fuel the direction of each scenario.

For the first exercise, using objects taken from a crowd, two of the improvisors gave the audience confusing monologues about a glove and a notebook. It was confusing because they rambled endlessly about how they use these two objects in their daily lives. It was uncomfortable to watch and the audience immediately became unimpressed, with some harsh heckling.

Then, there were then some skits that came out of nowhere without any explanation. For all the audience knew they could have been scripted, but that was unlikely. One skit ended up involving a German-language musical, where Elinor Lower thought shouting long strings of german sounding words constituted as improvisation.

The beginning half of the show was cringe-inducing and, like Medusa, could not be looked at directly. Yet Bristol Improv’s spirits were never dampened throughout the show, and their persistence by the end won over the supportive audience, who cheered whenever there was some coherence during their skits. Many intelligent quips from Ollie Aston and Ruben Ruskin saved the day, catching both their fellow actors and the audience off guard.

The main problem I had was how little the company worked together. Some offenders would just shout over their fellow, more subtle, performers. It appeared that if it got a bit ‘weird’ then it would be a success. The improv games they played were nothing new, but with the help of funny suggestions from the crowd the actors were at least given promising situations.

Despite this show’s ultimate failure, Bristol Improv do deserve a lot of credit for their gallantry and spirit at attempting something that is very hard to pull off.


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