Improvabunga!

Fri 4th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Charlie Stone

at 23:51 on 11th Aug 2017

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An entirely audience-created play constitutes 'Improvabunga!', which successfully keeps the audience laughing across its 50-minute duration. Understandably, some minor slips remind us that this is indeed a show made up on the spot, but there are some brilliant moments of comedy along the way. As the audience file into the theatre, containing a stage surrounded by chairs on three sides, the troupe dance continuously around in the middle; creating a dynamism that is present throughout the production. The intimacy of the venue keeps the spectators right up in the faces of the actors, which, though making the mistakes more prone to detection, allows for a rowdy atmosphere and natural performance.

The premise of the improvisation, wherein the audience decide a play and use buzzers at their discretion to change its tone, is superbly original and tests the actors’ ability to construct a plot before our eyes. The creation of these separate scenes is at times so natural that it is possible to forget that the show is improvised. This, though, leaves one slightly more critical as a result, and to enjoy 'Improvabunga!' fully it is necessary to remind oneself often that the acting is entirely fresh. This is not to say that the improvisation backfires – nothing of the sort – but at times it feels slightly as if the actors are going through the motions.

Some wonderful moments of comedy light up the production. Alex Wilcox and director/actor Will Jackson are particularly successful in their roles as Percy and Dr Evil Rhino, and are adept at holding the audience’s interest. The piano in the background provides an attractive beat which keeps the play on its toes. In spite of its ability to create the character and plot development that one would expect in a scripted show, 'Improvabunga!' sometimes lacks confidence in its own ability. The actors are individually talented and all highly capable of entertaining the audience, but their chemistry is sometimes a little skewed and there are cases of over-acting. Of course, it is a self-proclaimed ‘overly dramatic’ show, but the real strengths lie in the quieter and more creative moments. A measured one-liner proves a much more effective cause of laughter than a wild show of dancing. It is worth remembering, though, that 'Improvabunga!' rotates its cast, and so the chemistry that other troupes can work on constantly gives way to a very fresh and vibrant feel. Rugged, then, but highly entertaining, the show is worth a watch for its bright moments of genius, and the bizarre situations that crop up in any improvised performance.

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Abi Newton

at 12:39 on 12th Aug 2017

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‘Improvabunga!’ is the improv show by student The Watch This Improv Troupe, and by all means its exclamation mark is earned: this show throws itself at the audience with buckets-full of energy and is rewarded with constant laughter. While the audience find their seats, the crew – including pianist and lighting crew – have an onstage dance party, pulling out moves with such vigour you wonder how they don’t all collapse before the show begins.

A new “movie-adventure-extravaganza” is created based on audience suggestions each night, and it is this niche which works so well for the team. The fact that the focus is on crafting a multi-scened mini-movie allows a remarkably sound plot to develop, even one about, on this occasion, a murderous dancing rhinoceros. Running jokes are established and played with, in-jokes with the audience that are still funny even after the show ends – I for one will never look at pineapples the same way (don’t ask). This was a slick production with no time wasted unnecessarily. The initial individual short sketches, most only under a minute, were effective in introducing every member of the cast without bogging them down in concepts which wound to nowhere – the others helpfully knew to step in when things had peaked. This shows a level of professionalism impressive in a student group, granted one in its thirteenth year at the Fringe. It will be interesting to see if the group develops into new endeavors in years to come or sticks with a formula that obviously works.

Though there is talent in abundance amongst the members of the troupe, there were a few instances where cast members’ ingenuity was overshadowed by the prior intentions of their colleagues. This was a shame since there is a real skill in the troupe’s quick responses to prompts, which should be able to burst out at every moment possible. But this wasn’t detrimental to the overall entertainment value of the show, not the least because every slip was seized for a joke. The best of these was when several members started forwards at once to play a hunchbacked assistant called Igor, with the same unsuccessful two returning five minutes later as Igor’s brothers Bligor and Kligor. The rotating cast aspect of the troupe may aid in this, as it inevitably means there will be a different group dynamic each night, and a chance for each member to refresh their style.

The troupe wear their absurdity on their matching, tie-dyed sleeves, and it’s so refreshing to see a student comedy troupe who know what their strengths are and perform them well. The company also deserves credit for its provision of relaxed shows specifically to accommodate the needs of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, where the capacity is smaller, making noise is encouraged, and everything is a little less fast paced than usual. It’s a sign of a seasoned comedy act which has the resources and the maturity to make a show accessible to everyone. I hope to see this ability reflected across more shows at the Fringe in years to come.

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