Brighton Fringe 2011
This is a new format for The Maydays and it plays well in their confident hands. Working from ‘confessions’ of shameful secrets contributed by the audience, the team improvise sketches and songs that bring these ‘sins’ to life. The show I caught included a spontaneously choreographed musical number about a toilet paper kleptomaniac, and a sketch involving Zeus in an open relationship showing off his thunder and lightning dance moves to his girlfriend’s husband. Whatever the audience’s confessions, The Maydays transform the material into spontaneously satisfying comedy gems.
It’s clear that The Maydays are an established improv group who enjoy working together. Their enjoyment is infectious, though the task they set themselves would terrify an average audience member. The theme of confessions suggests an evening of salacious, juicy details of shameful acts, but some of the audience contributions were frankly bizarre or a little pedestrian. It’s to their credit that The Maydays took on all suggestions with equal enthusiasm and added lashings of shameless comedic fun .
A loose framework holds the show together and each scene begins with the confessional moment. The ‘sin’ is announced upfront, leading to a delicious anticipation of how the team will work it into a scene that satisfies – sometimes it’s a spoken sketch, sometimes there’s a song and the group might even break into dance. The way the group work together to construct a story seems so effortless it’s almost telepathic. Between them they instantly create funny but believable relationships and circumstances that offer no easy way out until suddenly the solution or the punchline arises naturally and delightfully from the story.
It’s funny to watch them give each other unexpected attributes: ‘Hey I like your new afro, Zeus. Can I feel it?’ leading to moments of lovely playful silliness.
The audience on Sunday evening was fully engaged with the show. The stories were ours (well, not mine as I failed to come up with a single ‘sin’ worthy of confessing) and the thrill was in being part of the unpredictable business of whether or not the players could make the unscripted spontaneous scenes work. The results were laugh out loud funny, sometimes touching and have left me with images I might never forget.
Special mention should go to Joe Samuels’ live musical accompaniment. Again, this outfit is so good at the job, it’s hard to see who’s leading whom. The music follows the action so seamlessly – or does it sometimes offer direction?
I really enjoyed it when later sketches started to re-introduce content or characters from previous scenes. I’d love to see the show again as The Maydays develop this new format.
They’re funny, confident, imaginative, charming and not afraid of making themselves look ridiculous. They will turn your secrets and stories into something to make you laugh your socks off. Go see them if you can. And take along a juicy confession or two.