Edinburgh-based improv group Men with Coconuts present an entirely improvised Bond film, based on suggestions from the audience and using many familiar tropes and improvisation games to create an entertaining new adventure starring the world’s most famous spy and his colleagues at MI6.
A very entertaining and well-devised show
After introductions, the Men with Coconuts went on to ask the audience for a suggested title. After an audience ‘clap-off’, the winning name was “The Only Way is Up”, which became the theme of the play. This was the only audience input for the entire show, before embarking on a fluid and frequently very funny improvised ‘film’, complete with theme song with the visuals one would expect of a Bond movie.
The villains, playing to the now outdated Bond stereotype, were two Russian brothers with a questionable relationship; the Bond girl meanwhile was a Valley girl, reminiscent of the older Bond films before women became empowered and independent thinkers, of the same tradition as Pussy Galore, Bambi and Thumper. These peculiar choices were effectively turned into recurring jokes, in addition to the questionable geography, where it was proclaimed that London was coastal. The level of improvisation was high and the group had a strong rapport; however, the initial choices were limiting and didn’t fully manage to fit into the tropes of Bond as much as could have been hoped. The live jazz accompaniment throughout, whilst effective at times, seemed to encourage a cloying sentimentality that just doesn’t exist in the films. Most unconventional was the final song about the power of friendship between Bond, M, Q and the previously unseen Moneypenny. Final moments of Spectre aside, this is probably the most unlikely thing to occur in a Bond movie. It was just a bit tacky.
Improvised Bond did contain some very humorous moments: the improvised gadgets Bond acquires when visiting Q were very entertaining, with some very imaginative and clever ideas, and the two Russian villains were particularly comical together, especially when quoting ‘familiar’ Russian proverbs. The Bond girl choice was a little feeble and ill-fitting with the genre; the over-sentimental M was initially amusing, but also a bit repetitive by the end.
As a whole, Men with Coconuts communicated well and produced a funny and inventive show that pleased the crowd and covered many of the much-loved and mocked qualities of the films. The opening dance and song were excellent, and the word games and plot were very fun. More audience input might have been beneficial, as it at times felt a little too formulaic, but overall this was a very entertaining and well-devised show, and one of the best shows I have seen at the Free Fringe this year.
The hall was packed, with visibility very difficult at the back due to raised seating, so get there early to guarantee a good view!