Damian Smith

Strangely, I have never been to an improv show before. I say strangely, since it’s the kind of thing that I’ve always thought I would love. This thought was not incorrect. This Impronauts show is consistently fun, outrageous and at times even thrillingly absurd.

From the outset, the actors worked in delightfully bizarre character traits and running jokes. A fixation on the quality of a person’s hands, for example, was quite dominant for much of the opening exchange on the night I attended. No more will be said of this, for spoilers will not be indulged in. Call-backs to these traits and running jokes were mostly funny, and often kept the improvisation tethered nicely to the characters and the plot at hand. Some improvised lines were positively Spike Milligan-esque in the best possible sense, and there were some brilliantly witty asides which came to the performers very quickly indeed. All the performers had a great degree of chemistry, and so built off each other in ways which felt in no way contrived. Even if one performer missed a line, said one which they should not have, or flubbed a word, the other performers would call attention to it, working it into the endless series of running gags and references. At its best, the thing felt like when one develops in-jokes with friends over the course of an hour, and so before long all that is needed is a simple reference or call-back to achieve instant merriment. Except many of these performers are not my friends. I do not know many of them. Yet, in many ways, they were my friends, for that one hour at least. Such is the bliss of theatre, I guess.

Of course, being an hour of improvisation, there are naturally going to be moments where the energy flags a little, or where both performers stall a tad as they talk their way into the next bit. But even in these moments, where perhaps the jokes hadn’t been flying as thick and fast, there was a charisma and confidence in the performers that carried it through. Also, since many moments were extremely funny, there was a complete confidence and trust on the audience’s part - or with me, at least - that these lulls would be only momentary, which they most often were. Sometimes, the performers leant into these lulls in a way that pushed through them through into brilliance, turning occasional moments of uninspired repetition into a hilarious bit. The point here is that no improv show can be high-energy and divinely inspired with the gift of the gag for a full hour, and the key thing is to know how to handle the inevitable rough patches and moments of indecision. Thankfully, the performers all consistently handled these moments with skill and, dare I even be so bold as to say it, panache!

“Every performer, thankfully, had a moment to shine”

One thing to be wary of when going into any improv show is also the degree of crowd interaction, something which was handled very well here. There is perhaps a danger with improv shows to let the crowd in to such a degree that the chaos is no longer controlled, but this certainly wasn’t the case here. The crowd interaction, being limited to certain moments, was made all the more fun for it, and the performers certainly knew how to banter with the crowd when they did. Perhaps, as a person who loves shouting out random words such as ‘bucket’ and ‘hat’ at performers from the dark, I would have liked a little more of this audience interaction. Nevertheless, this desire of mine is an irrational one, and if too much audience interaction is let in, the thing will lose all shape and end up nothing more than a repetitious, bantering mess. So that’s understandable. There were certain set pieces which allowed the audience to engage with them a great deal, such as the various musical interludes. Yes, music! There was both a sea shanty and a hoedown on the night I attended, inviting the audience to clap, move, and even sing along if they dared. Here, the show is massively elevated by, and to a degree even dependent upon, the energy and enthusiasm which the audience gives back to the audience. If you go for it and join in, it’s certainly worth it.


Mountain View

Great Mother – Iya Ayaba: ‘A theatrical tour de force’

But I haven’t even mentioned any specific performers! That’s a crime, really. Well, now I shall. The dynamic between Aidan Pittman and his frail-handed employee Barney Jeff Slater was something to watch, as they say. They bounced off each other in a way that built up some quite memorable little routines, especially in the pottery factory. Also, Robbie Smith’s delivery was consistently brilliant in its languid fashion, turning some lines that would not look too tremendous on paper into moments that killed. Persephone Tsebelis also drew out some brilliant moments as a sewer goblin, and Jonatan Rosten committed admirably to the absurdity of Bluebeard. Cian Morey and Damian Smith also had some particularly stunning moments as robbers whose sole objective was ice cream, and who were not quite certain of the ethics of their endeavour.  Eva Frederiksen also was brilliantly enigmatic as the one who has seen it all, and shamefully villainous as the queen of the sewer goblins. Every performer, thankfully, had a moment to shine. And this, of course, was all directed, lit, and reined in by Alex Walker, to whom a lot of the credit for the show must presumably go. Though, of course, who knows?

In short, the show is a blast, and one which deserves to be watched. Or rather, a show which deserves to be engaged with. Why don’t you go on down, and have as much of a blast as the performers are having? Trust me, it won’t be too hard.