California Beach Bungalow

Smile and Nod are a sunny, engaging college improv group from California, whose show California Beach Bungalow is confident, slick and imaginative. All they need from their audience are a few words before they get going. They end up taking around ten over the hour of this performance, a random selection including wallet, cholera, gerbil and space.

Their brand of improv is long-form: the sketches pan out along the lines of one suggested word until a cast member who's not in that scene decides that enough's enough and a new sketch is begun. It's a clever style that ensures nothing drags too much. The cast allow a few moments for a sketch to get going and once past its introductory phase it blossoms until it reaches a peak. At this point what they call a 'shark edit' takes place to end the scene. It's a bit like a drive-by, but with a hand raised, fin-like; I can't help thinking that it would be a useful technique in boring conversations too.

The actors are comfortable on stage and with each other. It's obvious that they've been performing together for some time: the way they tag each other to come on and off stage during scenes is professional but also reveals a healthy level of trust, which is crucial to the success of improv comedy. More than this, it's clear that they're friends and during the best sketches it feels more like they're goofing around for their own amusement than performing to a crowd.

Of course, not all of the sketches are great. Some brilliant ones involving a hedonistic Texas governor and a drunk pilot's past with his air traffic controller are in contrast to a few shorter sketches which take too long to get started and don't quite reach the same heights, but these moments are always short-lived because the remaining cast is always on the lookout for moments to make sketches more interesting. This group is a cut above average improv at the Fringe; their dynamic show is well worth a look.

Reviews by Larry Bartleet

Underbelly, Cowgate

Jessie Cave: I Loved Her

★★★★★
Summerhall

Abacus

★★★★
Summerhall

Confirmation

★★★★
Pleasance Dome

Neil Henry's Magical Mindsquirm

★★★★
Laughing Horse @ Finnegan's Wake

Martha McBrier: Pigeon Puncher

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

Chicago-style improv, with a Californian flair! Audience suggestions will fuel the sketches and games. Watch as we perform a new show every night. Sit back, relax, and let that sweet California sun shine on it. www.smileandnod.org.

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