Spon Trek at the Edinburgh Fringe

Sun 20th – Wed 23rd August 2017

reviews

Katrina Gaffney

at 13:38 on 23rd Aug 2017

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I was initially concerned that my enjoyment of ‘Spon Trek’ would be hampered by my inability to even distinguish between Star Wars and Star Trek. However, after watching a couple of minutes of the show I quickly realised that this would be the least of my issues. Based on an audience suggestion for a new Star Trek episode, this improvisation failed to deliver on multiple fronts.

One of my biggest issues with ‘Spon Trek’ was the failure to actually use the audience’s input. 90% of the show was unrelated to the audience’s title suggestion ‘Tea Party of Chaos’. If it were not for the hesitancy of the cast in the delivery of their lines I would have thought that this show was heavily scripted. The show felt improvised not because it included audience suggestions but rather because of the slow delivery of lines.

For improv to be successful it needs to be slick. ‘Spon Trek’ was anything but slick. There was just too many pauses between lines and performers stumbling on their words for me to be impressed. Moreover, I felt that the cast were lacking in chemistry. Another key element of improv is co-operation but it seemed to me as if this cast had been thrown together. There were many moments when they would start to talk over one another which perhaps seemed to suggest that they were not used to working together.

There were a couple of funny jokes in the show, however, they felt few and far between. Some of the references were quite dated - I feel like Crazy Frog (remember the annoying blue frog on a motorbike from 2003?) is not particularly relevant or funny anymore. I feel like the cast struggled on a comedic level.

I appreciated the effort the performers had made with their costumes - their star trek jumpers actually looked quite cool. Although jumpers aside, ‘Spon Trek’ felt rather rough around the edges. Considering the futuristic element to Star Trek a bit of well thought of lighting and sound could have gone a long way in making this show feel a bit more exciting.

Perhaps, I was unlucky, with this show, after all improv should be different every night, and maybe the cast just need some time to find their feet and get a little more familiar with each other. However, with so many excellent improv groups at the Fringe and considering the current state of ‘Spon Trek’, unfortunately I have to recommend giving it a miss.

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Helena Snider

at 15:14 on 23rd Aug 2017

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Watching an improvised comedy a show entitled ‘Spon Trek’, when you know nothing about Star Trek (the movies on which it was based), is an interesting experience to say the least. It is presented to us by Real Positive Poles, a Bristol-based theatre company, who write: “As if 726 episodes and 14 movies wasn’t quite enough Star Trek, join us for a week of brand new episodes of the cult sci-fi classic.”

Real Positive Poles are highly talented improvisers. My main suggestion, though, is that it would be nice to see them riffing off audience members throughout the show. At the start, one of the comics requested written audience suggestions, to be read out later on. It might have been more effective to have direct and continual audience engagement throughout.

There’s a wonderfully geeky – and occasionally awkward - feeling to this show, which is partly down to the less formal surroundings of the Free fringe. It doesn’t feel hugely professional. Sadly, one of the moments which elicited the most laughs was when a builder accidentally came in carrying boxes. But, mostly due to the groups’ unbridled energy and chemistry, you’ll be kept grinning for the rest of the day.

One gets the feeling that much of the material here is not actually improvised. Having seen only one of their nights, it’s hard to know how many original lines there were per minute. Seeing as they took few audience suggestions though, I would guess that many of the sketches were pre-planned. It seemed this way when the performers themselves would laugh before one of the other comics made the punch line.

It would have be nice to see the comics try to perform something a little deeper or serious at times – even if they wrap it in deliberate goofiness. The constant references to ‘Star Trek’ were somewhat alienating for a non-‘Star Trek’ fan; and a good way to counteract this would be to touch on universal human feeling (if only occasionally) during the show.

In many ways, though, the atmosphere of utter silliness felt like a breath of fresh air; in a sea of increasingly bland comedy, the group were unashamedly different – with big, silly, wonderful passion.

On the strength of Real Positive Poles’ fringe show, I’d say they are performers with a great deal of talent, but also a long way to go to perfect their craft.

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