Edinburgh Fringe 2018
We have a barn in which two teams – the reds and the blues – compete against each other for laughs and our affection. They compete in games provided and also get to choose the games they wish to play whilst the referee keeps things correct – or as well as any referee can. We get to shout out suggestions, take part and be entertained before one side is crowned the winner.
This is clearly a format that is well tested and slick. There are few gaffes and pauses that our amiable group of six – including the comedy announcer, Sean – are able to field. From competing against each other to going solo with games that are then judged against each other by value of applause this has a clear pattern to be followed and it is a well worn and familiar pattern.
Over the 50 or so minutes we are taught a number of moves from the groaner foul to get out of here which helps the interaction, whilst at times there is genuine audience engagement as people are brought up onstage to participate. This is perhaps the most enjoyable part of the show as it delivers some genuinely bizarre moments. This is especially true when two young girls – my daughter being one of them – are the ones used to provide suggestions in an improvised scene which makes the adults channel their inner kid.
The concept of sports and comedy mixing is well established on the small screen and it works very well onstage. There seemed to be some genuine rivalry between the teams which worked in convincing us that this all mattered. Being a free show, it could have been seen as a bit of a gamble, but the fact was that it was much better than the entrance fee!
It’s polished, if a little rough around the edges, just by the nature of improvisation being unpredictable, but the performers are skilled in turning situations to their advantage. The atmosphere in the barn is certainly quite apt and there was, thanks to the referee costume in particular, a sense, almost, of an intellectual style Gladiators.
In the wind and the rain of Edinburgh this was a very welcome opportunity to do more than escape the weather. I really did enjoy it and though some of the comedy did not hit the mark overall it was something that, as a package, worked. Like all free shows the bucket is there at the end and given the weather they were offering a rather natty beanie hat and book for £20 and I was all over that combo! The familiarity with which the cast know the show and how each situation and game may go is important and made this far less of a gamble than you might think. Improvisation is a difficult skill and this has the scaffolding, the skilled performers and an attractive entrance cost that makes this a tad “no brainer” if you want to laugh at competitive comedy… Well worth the visit – even if it ain’t raining!