Cambridge Impronauts: Improv Actually

The Cambridge Impronauts return to the fringe with a long form improvised show that is a hot mess from shaky start to hilariously absurd finish. Improv Actually, if it's not obvious, is a rom-com style improv where, using audience suggestions, an entire formulaic romantic comedy film is improvised in front of your eyes. One would be forgiven for thinking that, with a genre that is so predictable, the troupe could develop a strong structure to work their improvisations around confidently, creating a relatively coherent narrative. One would be wrong. The show actually jumps off the deep end from the start and reaches the most absurd heights of improvisational comedy imaginable. 

A wild, wild time

The start of the show is relatively stable, but as the improv progresses, the troupe begins to lose the thread. Wild tangents are followed for minutes, yet do not resolve or go anywhere, characters appear and disappear at random intervals and the group struggle to keep the plot from going off the rails. Whilst in short form improv skits and games this madcap style can easily reach these heights, in a long form show this has to be tempered by linking elements and scenes together to form a semi-coherent whole, something the group failed to do.

Additionally, the mechanism for switching scenes, or adding further improv in the scene, comes from a member clapping their hands and stating a new scene description. It is an on-the-nose and messy mechanism to move the plot forward and was frequently abused by multiple members of the cast more than was needed or, even more egregiously, ignored by performers in the middle of scenes. None of this is helped by the fact that some of the troupe are clearly more experienced improvisers than others, and the standard for comic timing and witty remarks varies wildly between performers, which makes for an uneven experience. 

None of this is to imply the performance was not enjoyable, far from it. Watching the performers desperately trying to keep their composure as the plot began to disintegrate in front of them made me laugh harder than many planned gags did. Nor does the above criticism mean the troupe lack talent, there truly are some inspired improvisers on display, the MC, in particular, milked brilliant gags from a recurring characters randomly appearing in many scenes. In addition, special mention should go to the piano player who accompanied the group throughout the performance, riffing on the scenes and proving some brilliant funny thematic music as the insanity peaked on stage. 

Improv Actually is a massively uneven mess of an improv show that totters frequently on the verge of collapse, and it's a wild, wild time for this very fact. Whilst the show certainly needs some tweaking for it to reach a more coherent level, it's certainly an incredibly enjoyable watch in the state it's in.

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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The Blurb

Let the Cambridge Impronauts steal your heart with a brand-new romantic comedy created on the spot, just for you. Based on your suggestions, we'll follow our protagonist's story through the struggles of love, be it first dates, awkward break-ups or maybe, if they're lucky, a happily ever after. It's a love story to warm the cockles of your heart and make your belly ache from laughter, and it will only be performed once. Don't stand us up.