Paul Merton, one of the UK’s most popular comedians, together with his highly renowned Impro Chums: Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster, will create a brand new show every night, inspired by suggestions from you the audience as well as their own finely honed improvisational skills.
I have been waiting to see Paul Merton’s Impro Chums for years, having missed it over and again at Brighton and Edinburgh, and I was thrilled to finally catch it at Latitude, where it didn’t disappoint.
The format is very much that of a traditional improv show, where fun and extremely silly games are played off the back of some audience suggestions, and the performers wholeheartedly throw themselves into these most absurd situations!
Merton’s chums were: Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster, all of whom were great, but Lee Simpson and Mike McShane were particular stand outs.
McShane excelled himself in the improvised Shakespeare play with which they ended the show, sireing and whereforeartthouing his way through the absurd scuba diving antics that was Death of an Octopus. (More of an Arthur Miller parody than Shakespeare, but then the audience were providing slim pickings in terms of titular suggestions, mainly suggesting already existing Shakespeare plays, much to the frustration of Merton!!)
Improvising is a real skill and relies heavily on the quick-witted responses of the performers. When I saw the improvised play Animo, by Blind Summit and Improbable, earlier in the festival, I found it frustrating that there were many opportunities missed for funny repartee.
Lee Simpson featured in both shows, and it became clear that in improv it is very much the company you keep that makes you funny. Fortunately, unlike Animo, the Impro chums consistently delighted the audience with the bonkers and sparky responses they gave, and the result was uproarious comedy.