When the Oxford Imps first come dancing onto the stage, it’s clear this troop have boundless amounts of energy. Based around a series of games and audience suggestions, the Imps display a great deal of wit and there’s much to admire and laugh at.
It got off to a slow start, with a game that wasn’t highly successful - perhaps because the story suggestion of ‘Fish in Love’ from the audience wasn’t the most original. Still, the Imps could definitely have made more out of this - there was a distinct lack of fish puns. The basic concept was that each Imp told part of the story when they were pointed at and stopped talking when the finger pointed to the next person. A tricky thing to do, which was made even more difficult because they were also asked to do it in different accents and, at one point, in the style of Dr Seuss.
What actually made this game more amusing was the fact that every time an Imp made a mistake the audience was encouraged to shout ‘Die!’ - something everyone seemed to relish a little too much. It’s because the Imps revel in their mistakes and aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves, that even when it doesn’t quite work their comedy is still highly enjoyable stuff. Their improv also works best when it is spontaneous to the extent that it turns out to be really silly and makes absolutely no sense. Nonsense makes people laugh and the Imps are very good at churning out nonsense. I mean this as a compliment. Their wit is playful, anarchic and chaotic in the best possible way.
Another game involved the Imps singing a Band Aid style song about annoying brothers. This turned out to be hilarious, partly because most of them can’t really sing. Again, I mean this in the best possible way. Another game involved the Imps making up a scene and then recreating it through different genres of film. This resulted in a Billy Elliot sketch being transformed into genres including Japanese Manga and a Viking Epic - truly hilarious stuff. Their final sketch involved a parody of Shakespeare, this time about a cyclist from Bankhead. This was the most hilarious part of the show and, though this is probably the part of the show that relies slightly less on improv, there was still plenty spontaneous jokes on display and it was the perfect end to the show.
There are some noticeably stronger members of the Imps though. Sylvia Bishop’s depiction of the Shakespearean sister with a face like a nut reduced me to tears of laughter. Dylan Townley was also outstanding, with an astonishing bit of improv beat-boxing. That’s not to say the others aren’t also funny, it’s just that these two stand out as exceptional.
Overall, this is really strong improv and it’s all over a bit too soon. In all improv there is room for improvement - it’s in the name - but it’s difficult to fault the imps’ energy or their boundless wit.