The Oxford Imps

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011


Fen Greatley

at 10:40 on 10th Aug 2011



High-profile acts always meet with some stupidly high-profile expectations; as the packed-out Gilded Balloon, the holy grail of Fringe comedy, filled every seat, I sat there gleefully anticipating the funnies, aware of the buzzing excitement of my fellow festival-goers.

The Imps' approach to entertainment is no-holds-barred, with a free and easy atmosphere effortlessly created at the start. Snatches of catchy, recognisable music greet their welcome entrance and different ones continue between sections of the show, creating and maintaining the fun, energetic club of the subvenue's name. It's also infectious, seeing someone else having a great time.

A selection of games serves as the vessel for this improvised comedy, in which 'Two-headed Imp' and 'Scene 3 Ways' are especially well received. Inventive language and variation of register show how intelligence can lend itself to subtly deployed hilarity.

Although everyone got laughs of their own, the girls outnumbered the boys in this day's line-up and were responsible for the majority of crack-ups – Erin and Sylvia in Two-headed Imp were fantastic, while Sophie's verbal intelligence on the spot throughout is staggering and highly enviable.

I want to say that the Imps don't disappoint, except that it would be a lie: I was a little disappointed. Having seen these guys perform so much better, I couldn't give this particular set the five-star review that I know they can and probably will merit elsewhere. Each show is, as they readily indicate, only as good as the audience's suggestions; the show that I saw was plagued by generally persistent noisemakers and smart-alecs suggesting things that could clearly not be handled without great difficulty (did you know that 'homunculus' is another word for dwarf?)

Besides reckoning I could fare better in some aspects of the challenging show (I'm sure it's a different once you're up there), the four star rating here is because, despite the Imps' having more to give, they never failed to enthuse and enthrall us all. The generic diversity of the show is superb, too, since they end with an entirely improvised musical (with the aid of the Imp accompanist). This is top-drawer entertainment within the constraints of appealing to all ages and audiences, delivered with good cheer and panache.


Joe Nicholson

at 12:14 on 10th Aug 2011



The Oxford Imps are preceded by a huge reputation: even described by a previous reviewer as the "best improvised comedy" that they had ever seen. I was eager to see if this accolade would be lived up to or not, but fortunately the show was utterly triumphant, and clearly deserved five stars.

The performance begins with loud music and the cast of seven Imps dancing wildly: this party atmosphere was brilliant in the Night Club area of the Gilded Ballroom. The Imps performance is gloriously interactive, with all of the material provided by shouts from the audience: this is, however, a far cry from potentially awkward exchanges that arise between comedians and their spectators. The warm up, hideously embarrassing in all but the best shows, was thoroughly enjoyable, and really built a cheerful atmosphere. The frontman who controls the performance engaged with the audience with unabashed and sarcastic commentary, and structured the series of sketches, which worked well and appeared completely fluid. The fact that The Oxford Imps is so enjoyable despite appearing so unstructured is frankly amazing, and is again to the credit of the group.

The different styles of the individual Imps worked well onstage, giving a real sense of individuality to the improvised comedy. Jamie Cooke was particularly memorable for his improvised Shakespearean chorus role in the final sketch. The show is gloriously spontaneous, yet the energy of the humour stays at a high throughout the entire performance. I was incredulous at the utterly bizarre nature of some of the sketches, one memorable example being “sanchez the cheese-addicted cat”, yet somehow the group manages to make such threads hilarious.

The linguistic virtuosity and innovation of the group is incredibly impressive, and although certain sketches were potentially pushed a little too far the skill of the cast carries the enjoyment forward. My one real criticism was that the performance was too short: devastatingly funny, light-hearted and thoroughly enjoyable, I didn’t want it to end.



Fen Greatley; 10th Aug 2011; 13:02:56

Fantastic, Joe!

Glad you saw the Imps at their best - the ones to beat.

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