Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Slick, professional and full of mystery and daring-do. A must for any improv fan.
To the packed Pleasance Courtyard to witness the creation of a unique murder mystery, compiled to a material extent by audience choice and delivered with Edwardian panache in true commedia dell’arte style by Degrees of Error Theatre, the resident company behind the Bristol Improv Theatre.
They’ve been bringing this long-form improv show to the Fringe for five years now but there was a freshness to the story that unfolded that suggests this is a group of actors who know what they’re doing, know what their colleagues are likely to be thinking and who are prepared to go with the flow on stage.
Whilst the plot was entirely unformed at the start of this hilarious hour, the characters were to a degree formed by their costuming and physicality. So, lets meet the dashing Inspector, complete with notebook, bow tie and Macintosh who answered to the name Scott Lanyard.
Come on, come on, get with it. Repeat his name out loud a few times and you will see just what type of humour this talented group set before us in the ensuing mayhem. And our inspector had all the usual suspects to deal with; the grande dame, the frustrated spinster, the gushing heroine, the lecherous bounder and the upper class idiot.
The audience set the broad elements of this particular plot, using a group, an object and an adjective that described the object and away we went. Cue a lot of very clever physical theatre and dialogue, the latter laced with innuendo, double entendre and truly groan-generating puns. Scene changes operated by means of some telepathic exchange between cast members and if there was any back stage plot setting and development, then it was done at lightning speed as the action hardly stopped long enough for anyone to draw breath. And all the while, improvised piano chords from stage right accentuated the mood and action unfolding before us.
But all stories, even improvised ones, benefit from having a beginning, middle and end and this was provided with some skill by our Inspector, on stage throughout and furiously making notes as he watched the chaos around him. His halftime summary served the double purpose of letting the audience know where we’d got to, got them choose a victim and a murderer from the cast and then reminded the actors what sort of a tangled ball of wool they’d created and that they’d not a lot of time left to commit said murder, so he could play the role of clever dick and solve the case.
And when it finally arrived, amidst a flurry of melodrama, this particular denouement was cleverly derived and executed with great use of “flashback” dialogue, putting the actors involved firmly on the spot and testing their improv skills to the limit.
Slick, professional, tight, physical and very, very funny. This lot are the real deal when it comes to improv. Very highly recommended for anyone with a sense of fun.