There's something particularly British about wanting to curl up and die a little upon hearing the dreaded words ‘audience participation’. It was therefore with a sense of trepidation that I took my seat for
Simultaneously genuinely funny with real emotional depth and connection
A completely improvised piece, promising a unique show each night, Between Us takes characters and stories from audience suggestions. After canvassing ideas, from my friends, of what to propose (favourite suggestion – "They’re both assassins!"), I headed into the small venue with bated breath. Rachel Thorn and Alex Keen soon put me, and the rest of the audience, at ease asking us to think of a person we knew who shared their Christian names and then to reveal something unusual about them. The nuggets gleaned from this 'comfortable' audience participation formed the basis for the characters that subsequently materialised on stage before us.
The ensuing story of this imaginary couple was developed realistically and naturally, switching from their first meeting, to their first holiday, to their first argument. Innovative lighting guided this relationship transition and fourth wall asides gave the audience an insight into the two characters' thoughts. Rachel and Alex were so finely detailed and planned that, at times, I couldn’t quite believe that this was impro, it certainly didn’t feel like it after the first five minutes of audience suggestions. This quick-thinking and witty duo shared a connection that felt natural and real as their performances. Alex, in particular, gave a poignant portrayal of a millennial man struggling to be the perfect boyfriend. Between Us surpassed all expectations, a show that was genuinely funny whilst simultaneously delivering a sense of real emotional depth and audience connection.
I’d love to catch the show again to see if Thorn and Keen are able to successfully maintain this calibre and creativity every time. I came away marvelling at the talent and practise it must take to perform this kind of work and wondering how on earth this duo managed to deliver such a moving and hilarious performance in one hit. It left me pondering why does anyone bother writing plays at all when, as Rachel and Alex showed, you can entertain so successfully on the spot?