The Beau Zeaux are impressive in their intensity. In this improvised comedy, solo stints become interwoven narratives before you have the chance to blink. As usual, the audience choose the direction of the show. It begins with a question: ‘who in this room had grandparents?’ After five minutes of audience participation, the set, complete with props ranging from an outside toilet to cabbage, is ready (in our imaginations).
There is hilarity, there is vulnerability, there is ‘sexing’. Book tickets and see what happens.
Deborah Frances-White introduces herself as compere and from then on is only heard, not seen. She plays God, switching between interrogator, narrator and conscience. She settles the performers in and then makes them squirm, much to the audience’s delight.
The simplicity of the format creates complexity. Frances-White can mould the action into real narratives. Interesting characters emerge and backstories unfold, plots twist and entangle. You come not only to laugh at the characters, but also to like them.
Thom Thuck plonks himself onstage and is immediately faced with ‘tell me about the time you emigrated from Lithuania’. Before we know it he is a Lithuanian political puppeteer based in Belgium with a domineering father and French pen-pal stroke lover.
Pippa Evans, who is impressively funny throughout, enacts a delusional American woman convinced she was the Vice President whilst simultaneously desperate for impregnation.
Television regular and acclaimed satirist Marcus Brigstocke takes the stage as a gay frat boy in love with his straight gym buddy Brendan Murphy. This four star rating largely comes from the fact that Brigstocke then attempts approximately 20 press-ups (he is commanded to complete 25).
For the sake of dynamism and more regular laughs, the performers could have done more to assume new characters throughout. Pippa Evans played three roles and definitely received the warmest response, meanwhile Brendan Murphy stuck to one and the laughs dried up.
Whilst improvisation can often regress to stereotypes, this format largely avoided that. With complex characters standing in front of you, the odd impulsive act of stupidity is made even funnier. Marcus Brigstocke jumping in as Thom Thuck’s erotic sex puppet for example brought the house down.
This is improvisation with an inspiring level of intelligence: there is hilarity, there is vulnerability, there is ‘sexing’. Book tickets and see what happens.