Baron Sternlook’s Big Naughty Improv Musical

Kudos to any improv troupe for even attempting the month-long exercise in uphill walking and sleep-deprivation that is the Fringe. Bravery is perhaps the sole redeeming feature of James Lovelock & co’s Baron Sternlook’s Big Naughty Improv Musical.

This cast needs time to hone their improv skills and oil the cogs of their ensemble, which at present are rusty at best.

You never realise how hard it is to evoke Bolshevik Russia in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan until it is done badly. Some slack ought to be cut for the fact that the cast seem relatively new to a genre that takes years to master. However, cracks begin to show from the off, with performers compensating for a lack of inspiration with thunderous, out-of-tune singing. The cast seem to lack the intuitive awareness of one another that is indispensable for good improv, making synchronisation glitchy and harmonies dissonant.

Baron Sternlook’s Achilles heel is the unevenness of its cast’s enthusiasm. While some were almost bouncing off the walls, others stood with their hands limply at their sides, seeming almost unaware of the audience’s presence. This is difficult to compute, given that improv performers are often sociopathically charismatic. Instead, a handful of the cast seemed embarrassed to even be be performing, as if they’d been unsuspectingly picked to join the rest of the cast onstage.

Though the cast do an admirable job of carving out a storyline, individual numbers themselves have little to recommend them aside from narrative consistency. Often, lyrics are either mind-numbingly circular or excruciatingly unimaginative, taking few risks for little payoff. The plotline is formulaic, the trajectory meandering, the finale predictable. In fact, the only real improvisational genius at work is that of James Lovelock who, along with a saxophonist, provides jaunty, unfaltering musical accompaniment to the onstage action.

There is no doubt that improv, much more visibly than theatre, is a craft, one at which a huge degree of skill is required before inviting a paying audience. Baron Sternlook Productions have launched their Big Naughty Improv Musical into the public arena prematurely. This cast needs time to hone their improv skills and oil the cogs of their ensemble, which at present are rusty at best.

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The Blurb

James Lovelock (Showstopper, Music Box) and his herd of improvisers bring you the biggest, most chaotic and silliest musicals ever never written, all from your very own suggestions. ‘This quality of performance, which is rarely assured within improvised performance, is a breath of fresh air and entirely in debt to the bond and rehearsal of the entire cast’ (Redbrick).