The Cambridge Impronauts

What else in Cambridge theatre can bring references to Roland Barthes, La Traviata, and Youtube cat videos together? They all came together in a highly enjoyable, highly energetic, entirely improvised show from the Cambridge Impronauts at the Corpus Playroom, in this weeks late show: Myths and Legends of Ancient Improv.

For the uninitiated, the Impronauts devise an entire themed show out of suggestions from the audience, relying on your imagination as much as theirs — the audience participation in this show is entirely voluntary for those, like me, who are less interested in more ‘interactive’ comedy. In this show, a slip of paper asking to name a God or Goddess and what they’re the deity of is placed on every seat, collected, and integrated into the piece. These invented ‘gods’ are a device that they work into their performance not only at the beginning but throughout the show. This adds a certain Choose Your Own Adventure twist to the evening that is particular to the Impronauts, unlike many other comedy performances around in the ADC and the Corpus. The conceit, theming the show around Myth and Legend, is broad: it means both the Impronauts and the audience can take their pick from a wide canon of meddling Gods, inept monarchs and famous heroes—or indeed, anachronistic French sociologists, Italian operas or viral videos, as our performance showed. Although at some points a few of the scenes were prone to lagging, and couple of obvious punch lines were missed, the performance remains unpredictable and delightful. It wasn’t flawless comedy, but that was part of its charm, and as the week draws on, I can only see the show becoming even stronger and slicker. Every performance will be different, but there was enough in the opening performance that I can foresee a very successful run.

For what the company sometimes lacked in refinement, they made up for in sheer, palpable energy. The use of claps to break the scene, to extend a particularly funny joke or make a witty reference keeps the pace fast and the laughs rolling. Adi George and Alan Beaumont stood out in their performances; their energy and interjections lifted the show and made some of the most memorable gags. The Impronauts work well together as a company, and are obviously skilled at following each other’s queues, a skill that is vital for the smooth performance of an improvised show that is reliant on the ability of the entire company to maintain the same, high level of performance.

The atmosphere is like that of a 1920s matinee, with punchy lighting design from Benjamin Dobson and a live piano by Stephen Gage. The music deserves a special commendation in its success in evoking mood, with its responsiveness to the changes in scene building on the performances of the company—the music-hall tone added to its charm. The whole performance is filled with a light hearted, almost whimsical quality that is certain to entertain for an hour as the end of term rapidly approaches. Myths and Legends of Improv is definitely worth a trip to Corpus, for an enjoyable and unpredictable evening of varied and energetic comedy.