Edinburgh Fringe 2011
No Shoes Theatre tackle one of the more challenging of improv genres – the musical. All without a script, or shoes.
Reviewing improv is difficult given the vagaries of the genre. Acting in it must be hard enough but creating a musical from the wild and wacky suggestions that an audience might come up with seems to me to be damn nigh impossible.
But there’s method in No Shoes Theatre’s madness and they manage to keep control by carefully selecting from the myriad of inducements coming from a rowdy crowd on this last performance of what appears to have been a very successful Edinburgh run. And they’ve had the foresight to work with a live band consisting of three very talented and versatile musicians on keyboards, bass and drums.
So, we’re all set for a musical version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? All our sextet (four boys, two girls) have to do is work the musical to the chosen theme, interject a song suggested by the audience and finish with a number based on the final request. Oh, I forgot to mention that we get to play a series of joker cards during this journey, all of which throw a wobbly into the proceedings by taking the performance off at a tangent.
Making good use of a selection of props stored stage left, the singers somehow craft a story about a failed javelin thrower, a cheer-leader suffering from an absence of cheer and an assortment of other peripheral players in the Olympic theatre that sees what was very much an ‘end of run’ performance stagger over the line by delivering the desired denouement at the appointed hour.
I’m not a great fan of improv, simply because the shows I’ve been to have been very much more miss than hit. But No Shoes Theatre has brought an imaginative approach to this genre. Having a live band that can create simple backing chords around which almost any words will fit helps, as does a knowledge of basic Lloyd-Webber harmonies. And the cast were obviously enjoying themselves as much as we were and, interestingly, were as much in the dark as to what was going to happen next as the rest of us. But this is a well led group, the pace never dipped and the audience got to feel part of what was created. Much more like this and I shall start becoming a fan as well.