Mysteries of the Unknown

The big issue with Bristol Improv’s horror-comedy offering is sadly a brutal one: the show simply wasn’t funny enough. The laughs don’t come nearly as quick or as hard as they ought to. This particular performance’s “investigation”, The Missing Hand, was a title picked from a hat of audience suggestions at the start of the show (I presume this was done in the queue before the show began as there was no audience interaction whilst the show took place). The hour then proceeded to meander around its premise, telling the story of a matron who’d had both her hand and chamberpot stolen whilst she was asleep and whose relationship with the late lord of the manor was coming under scrutiny.

The big issue with Bristol Improv’s horror-comedy offering is sadly a brutal one: the show simply wasn’t funny enough.

Sending a paranormal investigator into a convoluted mystery is a solid concept for a long-form improv show. Here, however, there is such a focus on finding a story to tell that the players let the comedy slip. Unfortunately the plot never finds its feet either, hastily wrapping itself up in a manner that is contrived even for improvised comedy. They could do with somebody to guide the storyline, much like those used in other troupes - perhaps this would offer the opportunity for the audience to participate more in the show also.

It must also be said that the show lacked the energy necessary to keep the crowd involved. A lot of this can be put down to an over-reliance on dramatic pauses to build suspense, which had a tendency to kill the momentum in scenes. The cast, who embodied their Victorian archetypes well, needed to break through the repression inherent in their characters to allow the comedy to breathe. Too often would confrontations be moving towards a funny place before a servant would announce that they were behaving out of line and the scene would simply stop. There were also a couple of occasions when the cast would disobey a golden rule of improvisation: denying what another player has said.

The use of a macabre violin was a very nice touch within scenes, but it wasn’t enough to save a horror comedy that was lacking in horror and comedy. One of the audience title suggestions at the start of the show was The Transvestite Yeti. It was cast aside in a line, but I’m sure creating this fruitless investigation would have proved a lot more fun.

Reviews by Joe Christie

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The Blurb

Bristol Improv return from their four-star Edinburgh run and their fantastic reviews from further afield, to present an evening of improvised macabre mystery. Set in Victorian England, a paranormal investigator recounts the tale of one of his most peculiar and enthralling mysteries, that could be supernatural! The title is chosen by the audience and the plot is completely improvised live on stage each night. Expect poltergeists, possessions, and all manner of peculiar demons! For previous productions: **** (ThreeWeeks). ***** (Epigram). ***** (