The Society of Strange

Every year the Fringe is swarming with many improvised shows, with very few original ideas. Fortunately The Society of Strange offers an unusual change to fans of improv with its dark twists and eerie storytelling that does stand out from the crowd. The three performers (Adam Megiddo, Alex Bartram and Andrew Pugsley) attempt to enact three 'weird tales' based on audience suggestions in this creepy and challenging improv show.

A show that is unique and pushes the boundaries of improvisation.

As soon as the performers enter, we know that there will be no messing around. The introductions are minimal and the moment that a suggestion is given they dive straight into the first tale. The fast pace greatly enhances the suspense, created from the start, and it is a real credit to all three performers, who are so quick of the mark with each tale that they smoothly progress into logical narratives.

The talent and experience of all three actors is evident, and this is what really makes the show. You regularly see performers tripping over each other in improvised shows, yet Megiddo, Bartram and Pugsley are clearly very comfortable with each other on stage, working as a team and following each other's lead. Improv often falls apart when one performer tries to take control and lead the show, but fortunately we see none of this and the result is a very smooth running production that draws on years of experience to show a real mastery of improvisation.

My one concern with this show is that it seems to be stuck between two genres, and even by the end we are not entirely sure what the desired genre is. We can see that the piece is eerie and macabre, suggesting that it is a horror show. Yet there are moments that seem to push the show towards an improvised comedy. Though both of these genres are portrayed well, they do seem to undermine each other in performance. After moments of suspense, a one liner will be made, and it is hilarious. However, this completely breaks the suspense which, in turn, changes the genre of the tale from horror to comedy. With a little more definition, this could have been avoided. It is very possible for the the show to have comical aspects among the macabre, but this needs to be in a manner that does not ruin the unsettling aspects of the show.

Once again, Extempore Theatre have demonstrated that improv can be much more than just comic episodes, and by adopting the horror genre, they have created a show that is unique and pushes the boundaries of improvisation.

Reviews by Alex Hargreaves

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Performances

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The Blurb

New from award-winning creators of Showstopper! and The School of Night. Three actors spin tales of the weird, macabre and uncanny. If you thought improv was only comedy, prepare to be spooked. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes disturbing, The Society explore the thin line between comedy and horror, between this world and the next... Inspired by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, H P Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl. Extempore Theatre has played the National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe and the Royal Court. 'The masters of longform improvisation. Have to be seen to be believed!' ***** (Time Out).

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