The Improv Musical

The Improv Musical from the University of Warwick return for their third stint at the Fringe, and while providing some light and silly entertainment, fails to land any punches either through character, story or music.

There’s little to praise. Obvious jokes are thrown away or wasted

We’re greeted at the beginning of the show by our host for the evening, who opens proceedings by explaining the format of the show and goes on to introduce us to this evenings troupe. Once they have assembled he takes audience suggestions on a theme, two characters we’ll see in the show, the title of the first song and the title of the show.

The troupe were given pretty solid material for the show we saw: a celebrity cruise ship with one character who screams every time they found something interesting and another who is a talking hat stand. I could see some great jokes coming from that material. It was frustrating that suggestions were thrown out because they’d been done previously. When the mental asylum, as a location, was suggested we were told it had been done a couple of days previously. This was understandable because perhaps it would be too fresh in the minds of the performers to create a fresh perspective (although this would be a sign of a very talented troupe). However, when later rap was dismissed as a song-genre on the same grounds, it seemed ridiculous to deny the new audience.

Straight from the off it seems like a bit of a shambles. The troupe appear unprofessional as they sit at the back chatting amongst themselves – one assumes about the show – but this takes the magic out of the ‘improvisations.’ I have seen plenty of other troops assemble in silence, and even if you need the preparation time it would make more sense to create the show from audience suggestions while the company are backstage and can chat to their hearts content. Throughout the show we see them laughing along to jokes, lounging in the chairs, talking, swigging Iron Bru, and generally serving as a distraction.

In terms of the overall show there’s little to praise. Obvious jokes are thrown away or wasted – such as the screaming character. The actress who played her seemed not to understand the difference between interesting and exciting, and instead of screaming at mermaids who appeared on the ship (interesting), screamed every time she got to steer the ship (exciting).

At the end a ‘round up’ montage included two characters going off and starting a cleaning-products company. Having gained a few cheap laughs during the show by using the phrase ‘bang and the dirt is gone,’ now would have been a great time to throw in a pun. But no such luck. The humour seemed very alienating, as if they were trying to make each other laugh more than the audience. Musically, it was again shambolic, neither the pianist not the cast were willing to follow each other and bland, repetitive melodies prevailed. Attempts at harmonising, or back-up singing, were lost because they were half-arsed and extremely quiet. Any that got through were just repeats of whatever they did last time. The lyrics were the only redeeming element of the show, and had moments of being amusing, but were inconsistent.

The story itself left a lot to be desired, with gaping plot holes and confusing changes in direction. There were at least a half dozen plots going on, none executed fully. As far as I’m aware, you’re meant to follow whoever brings you into the scene, yet the members of the troupe seemed so keen to impose their story ideas onto the others that they frequently would just start playing whatever character they fancied. Later in the story a few actors conspired together to kill everyone – which proved tricky as they managed this only to realised that they had at least 15 minutes left of their hour and they had no cast left to continue the story. A convenient plot ‘twist’ followed that managed to revive all the dead people so they could finish up.

The Improv Musical is neither professional, nor impressive, nor particularly entertaining. Laughs from the audience seem almost accidental and occasionally awkward. They have a lot to work with a fairly good set-up, so they need to brush up their act, memorise their tropes and start working with each other more.

Reviews by Millie Bayswater

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The Blurb

Back by popular demand, The Improv Musical is ready to hit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for its third year! Catchy songs and hilarious storylines – completely improvised! The show is in your hands! ‘Knockabout farce’ **** ( ‘A fantastic feel for the comic touch.’ ( ‘A very good, fun show’ ( ‘A total, rollicking hoot’ **** (