Edinburgh Fringe 2016
There has been a murder. Jerkins, in the audience, carefully disguised so that even he doesn’t know he’s there picks a murderer and a victim before this accomplished troupe get sent off on a wild goose gallop round a plot that has us its inventors – the audience. This afternoon it was the blue one who killed the green one with a hamster in the locker room.
This amount of skill takes rehearsal. At what you may ask but if you believe that there are, as I was once reliably informed, only 7 stories in the world, finite possibilities in the infinitely enjoyable world of improvisation require rehearsal.
We enter a world of the 1920’s as the actors gather us and plant us in seats, their character building and louche demeanour give way to the very serious business of putting on a show they made up on the spot once we are settled. Apart from finding Jerkins, audience participation is limited somewhat to deciding a venue or event and an object (hence the hamster) before we are taken on an undiscovered journey.
This was never less than entertaining. The structure of using a detective to bring things together, interject with unwanted tasks for the actors and bring us all up to speed without ever losing the plot is highly effective. It tells of a very tight knit group. Their storytelling ability did have gaps and there were scenes that were much slicker than others but overall it was never less than slick. There were clearly running gags that helped the structure but the plot device they hit upon to bring forward the murderer was highly amusing and very, very clever.
Each actor played their part with skill and believability which, given that they had no idea where they were headed was impressive. There were quite a few characters within the piece that were certainly “stock” and belonged to the past but they fitted the overall ambiance of the piece perfectly.
You will never improvise Shakespeare but good improvisation is a skill at a par with the best Shakespearean performance to pull this off – Degrees of Error are one of the best, accomplished and most polished improvised groups I have seen for a very long time – and I am very, very old.
The music and the technical work is given equal billing on their website and so it should be. This is the cornerstone of the structure as it stops things dragging when they ought not to but keeps them dragging to being uncomfortable when need be for the actors to draw both laughter and sympathy from the audience. Drawing applause aplenty this was a full house that laughed, guffawed and loved each and every minute of this show.
I left delighted that I had stopped by, was chuckling at some of the dialogue for a long time after but most of all I was highly impressed by the whole affair. If you want to seek out some very good improv this is the place to which you should head – and pass improvisation appreciation 101.