The Cambridge ImpronautsImpronauts Photography

The Cambridge Impronauts’ Yo Ho Ho – An Improv Show begins before you know you it does. It begins with some of the cast lazing around the stage as you enter, welcoming you in. It begins when you see little pieces of paper and pens at your seat. You are told by the members of the cast who drift towards you to imagine what the pirates in today’s show will be searching for. And so embark the Impronauts on their journey.

Moderated by Captain Jolly Roger, on the electric synth in a 17th-century bar, we listen in on some good ol’ pirate stories. What follows is the Impronauts taking up a random suggestion from the crowd and immersing you in a story. Considering that they don’t have a script the Impronauts do a wonderful job. Really, they have no business being this good right off the bat.

Now don’t get me wrong, not all their jokes land – and nor can you expect them to. But those that do are funny, and the story is highly engaging. It is funny to see how characters respond to completely unexpected situations that crop up, like when a character who’d been killed in the last scene is back alive in the next. When the characters forget on screen names and make that into a running gag, those sparks of intelligence are to be appreciated. Also kudos to the sound effects, which are brilliantly timed, and not overused.

Taking inputs from the audience right at the beginning and pursuing one story from a prompt rather than multiple stories is a smart move, even though it might make other viewers whose ideas are not taken into account feel left out, as indeed I felt when my suggestion of polar bear booty was not even considered. It gives them enough leeway to become a character for a longer duration, thus giving them the opportunity to even out some flat gags with other brilliant ones.

All the while, the stage and costumes on the stage are used masterfully. The pirates try to sit at right angles to the stage as much as they can, in equal amounts ensuring you see as many people in a side profile as you do from the front, given that this is the Corpus Playroom, and your audience is in an L-shaped configuration. There’s a set of costumes on the stage, used deftly by the cast to change in and out of characters when it’s not used for a laugh that is. Timing was critical for the production, and for keeping the audience entertained; their clear experience of improv and performance seems to have developed this, and it was a great strength throughout the evening.

How would you compare this to a fully scripted play or an outright sketch show? Well, both of those have their places, and could be considered a more refined version of Improv, since you’ve had time to revise a scene multiple times and perfect that punch in the joke. However, Improv does have its benefits. For one, it feels so fresh, and in some cases more human than either of the other formats. There is the occasional goof up on stage that you have to live with. The wrong person in the wrong scene, who, with enough skill, eventually becomes the linchpin for the whole set-up. It is very organised disorder, something a play or a sketch could never allow for. This is the unique beauty of Improv, and this spontaneity is something that the Cambridge Impronauts use well.

Yo Ho Ho – An Improv Show, was an immersive, engaging story, occasionally funny and always entertaining, told to you right on the spot