The conceit of Lights! Camera! Improvise! is deceptively simple: Oscar, owner of the only infinite film collection in the world, invites the audience to choose a movie to watch with him. Torn between a sci-fi and romance, our audience was offered a mix of both in a jovial compromise that set the tone for an engaging, universally-satisfying and utterly hilarious evening. I couldn’t even begrudge the rejection of my own suggestion of robots for the leads – the idea of fish-people was a much better choice and proved to be fantastically executed by the cast.
The story of Dr Jacob Jacobs - creator of the fish people and through that means saviour of the human race - subverted typical film tropes with every sinuous sashay of his belly-dancer-wife’s tail. Our romance became a family drama, a Spanish soap opera and a story of playground addiction in turn. Each cast member took up their characters with enthusiasm, from Richard the ‘Dick’, a salsa-ing lothario and Jacobs’ colleague to finless six-year old Jack. The latter brought a touch of poignancy to the tale that only made the laughs ten times bigger.
The progress of the ‘film’ was periodically halted by Oscar to provide guidance on what would happen next, show us a ‘scene from the director’s cut’ or just react to the more insane moments the cast brought out. The ‘director’s cut’ in particular was a fantastic touch, allowing for quick tangents that exploited the creativity of the group. They are very physical, taking on any and all roles with gusto, and they know their comedy without slipping into clichés.
For an improv show that took a number of surprising choices (including six year olds on heroin and a whale chat show) it held together remarkably well – indeed, the character arc of Molly, while intensely disturbing, provide a source of laughs almost every time she was onstage. Moreover the group were keen to engage with the audience beyond the opening pitch, adding to the sense of collective enjoyment: Want to know why fish need shoes? And how they use treadmills? The deleted scenes contained all the answers. Astoundingly, Oscar’s claim that the film would tie up its loose ends proved very true and with one final dance number the film drew to a close. Witty and quick-thinking, Mischief Theatre have created a show designed for you and them to have as much fun as possible – you’d be a fool not to join them.