Paul Merton and his impro chums return to Edinburgh for their tenth festival run, delivering many more hours of top quality improv. The five performers might be ten years older in age, but my oh my they’ve still got it, with their quick wits and punny one-liners. The Pleasance Grand was packed as Paul Merton’s Impro Chums took to the stage to build scenes fuelled by audience suggestions. Admittedly the majority of the crowd had probably bought a ticket just to see Merton in the flesh and as the Have I Got News For You captain stepped out from behind the curtain the audience wolf whistled as if Beyoncé had just strutted her stuff on stage. Nevertheless, it was great to see such a big comedy name bring in a big crowd to an improv gig, as one bad improv experience tends to ward off an audience for life.
The chums warmed up the crowd by playing the staple improv game, ‘Story Die’. Anybody who has ever been to an improv workshop will be well acquainted with this classic as the idea is to seamlessly tell a story as the MC switches between players. Merton asked the crowd for the suggestion of a first name and an object and so was created the story of ‘Gulliver and The Plunger’. Each time a member of the team made an error the audience had to bellow the word ‘die!’ and the room shook each and every time.
Despite often joking about their ages, the cast threw themselves fully into their performance. We heard political joke after political joke, proving the team’s knack for satire. The team made well-known improv games such as ‘freeze tag’ and ‘experts’ look effortless. Being a lover of improv meant that I probably enjoyed the show less than any other Tom, Dick or Harry- I’ve seen these games performed a million times or more. The only added dimension was their talent in carrying them out well - they actually made it look easy, which it definitely isn’t. Merton also had a tendency to kill a scene, swooning in to throw in his own witty punchline at the end, which honestly was usually rather humourous!
The focus of this show was definitely more on what Paul Merton and Co said rather than what they did. The players bounced off each other marvellously, clearly something that comes with performing together for years and years. This show was a delight to watch and if you’re a fan of political humour or just watching something plain funny and silly then this early evening show is well worth a visit. It’s also a great place to sit and watch improv done at it’s best.