Damian Smith

The Cambridge Impronauts have assembled a stellar troupe of actors for their latest contribution to the Cambridge comedy scene, Whim City: An Improvised Film Noir. The show delivers on its brief, bringing the film noir genre to life in a way that is camp, fast-paced and, most importantly, very funny.

As an audience member, an improvised performance grabs you in a specific way that scripted theatre can’t. Everything is being invented right before your very eyes, so the stakes are high. You feel involved in what’s going on onstage, willing the actors to pull it off and wincing when a line doesn’t quite land. A good improvised show will balance wit and creativity with a playful charm that reminds you not to take any of it too seriously. Whim City is one of those shows that gets it right.

The credit must fall to the very talented ensemble, composed of Cambridge students and local residents, most of whom seem particularly experienced in the medium. In a term full of freshers’ plays, this slightly older cast provides a nice contrast, particularly as the younger Impronauts are clearly in the process of learning a great deal from their cast-mates. Aidan Pittman was the standout performer, exuding a confidence and comedic sensibility which completely won over the audience. His quirky characters brought the scenes to life and he had the knack for getting as many laughs out of a scene as possible, knowing to pick fun at the convoluted plot.

“Aidan Pittman was the standout performer, exuding a confidence and comedic sensibility”

Other key talents were Damian Smith and Jonatan Rosten, who displayed their ability to build not only interesting characters on the spot but also convincing relationships between those characters. Both clearly experienced in improvisation, they riffed off each other’s energy and consistently provided new and funny directions to take the story. Hamish Thomas opened the show and set up the premise using audience prompts, his bright orange dinner jacket serving only to increase his already impressive stage presence as he trod the line between maintaining the film noir genre and wittily responding to the lively audience’s off-the-wall suggestions.

There were moments that didn’t land or where individual actors struggled to find somewhere to take the story. Often actors would find themselves simply filling the silence for the sake of it or talking over each other. However, this is to be expected in a show with a range of experience and made successful moments even more satisfying for the audience. The juxtaposition of new talent and experienced improvisers endeared the cast to the audience, inspiring faith that the medium of improvisation is here to stay.

Film noir was an excellent choice for an improvised show, due to the familiarity of characters, like the crooked mayor, hardened cops and criminal goons, as well as the scope to take the story and its mysteries in bizarre and hilarious directions. Robbie Smith provided the musical setting for the show, establishing the film noir tone and occasionally adding comedy through his piano accompaniment, but perhaps could have gone further and taken more risks.


Mountain View

Anything can happen in Whim City

The Impronauts’ latest show epitomises what a good ADC late show should be: loose, self-aware, playful and full of humour. The show delivers on its most important objective: to be funny, with laughter being more or less consistent throughout the entire performance. This is down to a very talented cast with a natural aptitude for comedy and character acting, who deserve praise for turning a few silly audience prompts into a very fun night at the ADC.

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