Samuel Lane

at 22:40 on 24th May 2013

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The prospect was marvellous. An evening of improvised comedy from a troupe of talented and experienced performers, or "international improvisers", as they dubbed themselves. The content would come from audience suggestions, and it would be consummately spun into slick, stylish and hilarious pieces, apparently "guaranteed to tickle your funny bone". I would find myself laughing at the witty tales and fantastic humour enacted, from nothing, before my eyes. I sincerely wished this had happened. It would have made for a much merrier Friday evening. Regretfully, though, it did not. The only promise which came to fruition was that they worked from audience ideas, a promise which sowed the seeds of their undoing. Indeed, the results of this weren't generally funny, but uncomfortable, strained and often plain boring.

In absolute fairness, there were a couple of amusing moments. There was one or two good, if cheap and predictable gags, such as camping up the rather butch man they were impersonating in the audience. Yet the majority of laughs, sadly, came from the sheer ludicrousness of the situations they stumbled into -fencing with a one-legged elephant umbrella stand, for instance, and from their mistakes- such as apologising for accidentally slipping from an Italian accent into a Polish one, rather than from any comic or acting talent. If any existed, it was not allowed to shine. These were performers who were entirely out of their depth.

The main problem was that the tasks they asked audience to set them, and decided to attempt, were simply too ambitious. Starting each line with the next letter in the alphabet was a task which, not entirely surprisingly, entailed cumbersome pauses for the actors to think of a line which started with the right letter, and simply non-sensical outbursts, such as shouting "Zebras!" for "Z". In another piece, faintly like charades, one actress had to persuade another that she was having to give birth to a dinosaur. This simply resulted in awkward and ill-fitting intrusions to try to help her out. Even bits they could and should have rehearsed, such as speaking in unison, fell flat and into shambles. At times, they also completely, absolutely and undeniably failed. In a chain of Chinese- Whispers style charades, where one actor had to convey an occupation, location and object to the next in a chain, being a racing driver ended up as being a West-Country farmer, Oxford University became a lawyer's office and a colostomy bag became a zombie-surgeon.

I don't doubt the boldness or difficulty in what they intended to do, creating an entire evening of truly spontaneous and improvised comic episodes. The straightforward fact is, however, they failed in their pursuit.

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