Edinburgh Fringe 2009
There’s a great sense of swagger even as you walk into the Bedlam Theatre, even before a single performer has walked on stage: there’s music pumping the speakers, a smoke machine working its mojo on the space, and, beautifully, The Improverts’ logo projected onto the back wall. These might seem like small things, but if a group are this confident even before the lights have gone down, they promise great things – they heighten the anticipation in the audience, making them giddy with excitement that something special is about to happen.
The question being, of course, do they deliver on the promise? The Improverts have been going now in various combinations for twenty years, and two decades cast a long shadow: it’s easy to get complacent and lethargic, easy to forget that for some audience members, this might be the first improv show they’ve been to. It’s good to see, then, they have a beautifully economical way of explaining rules of certain games to the audience, that avoids alienating newcomers without boring the experts.
It’s lovely to be in the presence of an improv group with such energy and positive confidence: they’re remarkably good at taking any suggestion given them by the audience, no matter how one-note or ugly: some very dark and unpleasant ideas were thrown at them on Friday night, which a lesser group would have tried to, at best, form into something more palatable, or, worse, dismiss entirely, at the risk of dismissing the audience themselves. Joyously, however, the group took whatever curveball was chucked at them without flinching, and wrestled it into scenes that the audience were comfortable with and, found hilarious.
The scenes are all short and sweet – this is a very fast paced show – and this is a tightly-knit group. Highlights include a song (made up, of course) based on suggestions from the audience (which, in this instance, included ‘your mum’ and ‘carrots’). It might be worth the group realising, however, that their audiences are getting to an age where nobody’s ever heard of MacGyver.
Like all the best shows in this genre, there’s an equally good improviser who never appears onstage – those that are in charge of light and sound, showing great intuition and wit, and an seemingly endless track list.
At half past midnight, you might be mistaken for thinking this is past your bedtime. The solution is simple: delay bedtime. Put simply, this is glorious improv.