High energy, fun and witty,
Practically indescribable but thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious to watch
The show breaks musical theatre into its most basic components but takes those components as far as they can go. The trio of Sam Cochrane, Alex Prescot and Charlie Russell put on a sophisticated musical full of twists, turns and a sub-plot simply from a tabloid headline length story pulled from the audience, with a rather wholesome conclusion despite the initial piece of gossip that influenced it. When the cast is in blacks, the set is two folding chairs and a hat rack filled with hats, everything that the actors do onstage has to be exceptional in order to keep the audience engaged. The three actors hit exceptional within the first 15 minutes and from there moved right onto comedic genius.
The characters migrated among the trio at various points, but each actor managed to realistically develop and add depth to each character they adopted that was consistent with and built on what the previous actor had initiated. As far as improvised theatre goes, this production contained all the high points of a fully improvised show with none of the lows. Full of the occasional commentary about the plot, running jokes and sudden changes in atmosphere, the cast managed to continually engage the audience, at times laughing with them at the decisions that were made onstage. It was practically indescribable but thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious to watch.
Jaunty seems to be the best word to encapsulate the feeling of most of the songs in the show. Whilst there was some stylistic differentiation, most of the songs can only be described as your generic ‘uplifting musical theatre song’. The lyrics were full of odd rhymes that generated even odder plot points, all fully embraced in the name of comedy. There was a clear partnership between the cast and the pianist – Tom Hodge – with the two parts coming seamlessly together to produce an overall high-quality performance. The songs were surprisingly catchy considering the mere seconds the cast had to think of them and did more to drive the musical’s plot forward than some well-established musical theatre songs. The songs contributed to a very high – if not professional – standard musical, to the point where it might as well have been a production that was being workshopped for the West End. Remember that everything that occurred onstage was completely due to the incredibly fast, in-the-moment decisions made by the cast and whilst this is the definition of an improvised musical, it was amazing to witness the process first-hand.
Busking is never easy, especially in a show as unpredictable as this one. The lighting by Julia Miller-Bakewell managed to intensify and change the mood completely as the show demanded, utilising every part of the rather basic rig that the venue had to its full potential, which added to the overall experience and complimented the action onstage perfectly.
If you wish to see a show that will make you physically shake with laughter, that has the same level of professionalism, plot, and music as your typical West End show but without the nose-bleed prices, then look no further than The Bean Spillers' Improvised Musical. Improv is always a risk, but with this show, enjoyment is guaranteed. If this is what The Bean Spillers can do with just their natural talent and the skin of their teeth, then it’s not hard to imagine what they can achieve when they prepare and write the musical beforehand.