Once Upon A Time...

‘Improv Comedy’, for a genre whose very definition implies limitless scope, seems to be becoming an increasingly tired medium. An over-reliance on the safety net of “games” coupled with rigorous structuring can leave an audience wondering exactly what future improvisation has. Back at the Fringe for the fourth year running, ShellShock! has made a creditable attempt to revitalise by introducing a storybook element designed around the re-telling of fairy tales in alternative settings: the programme promises efforts a la ‘Three Little Tudor Pigs’ and ‘80s Cinderella’. This has handily broadened their demographic to include children.

The young troupe were led by the slightly older and irreverently titled ‘General Purpose’ who stage managed and orchestrated the majority of the show, as well as giving an explanation of what ‘is’ improv comedy at the opening.

This rather hands-on approach at times made the production seem clunky as actors were crudely summoned forth at first to perform a First World War version of Little Red Riding Hood after some rudimentary Whose Line-ism to open the show. This new plot included Private Red Riding Hood delivering “Frog cookies” to a Field marshal as well as a cunning ‘German spy’, an inexplicable pole vaulter and a star turn from a French cook who successfully introduced rat to Red Riding Hood’s recipe and the first genuinely plausible accent to the production.

The show was a little fraught by unpolished touches that begat an unwelcome am-dram atmosphere: Blustery delivery and a lack of timing also abounded when the scenes dragged a little; Edges of curtains were sought rather panickedly at exits, which could be haphazard and matched with the numerous delayed entries. The actors were competent and sporadically revealed both their comedic talents and their limitations; an audience request to speak in Chinese accents was so catastrophic it had to be averted by General Purpose at the next appropriate pause.

There were some standout performers: a harrumphing Field Marshall and a robotic Queen Victoria were both bit parts played with aplomb. The fairy tale ending managed to bring itself into some sort of cohesion with a surprising and unforeseen ease with all story arcs resolved with a clarity rarely seen in Improv shows.

Indeed, the eventual denouement being such a high point of the show suggested a looser hand from the show’s controller would have benefitted the stunted sections in the middle. By no stretch was it a failure but these youthful performers perhaps need to be imbibed with the confidence required to break loose and really bring their reasonably innovative but currently hampered show to life.

Reviews by James Dolton

Jake Morrell

★★★
Hull City Hall / Truro Hall for Cornwall

Jason Manford - First World Problems

★★★★

Flanders and Swann

★★★★

The 27 Club

★★★

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.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

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.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

...but what time was that? Update your favourite tales and send the characters on a trip through time as we show you the story of the Three Little Tudor Pigs or Cinderella in the 80s.

Most Popular See More

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets