Improv comedy at the Fringe? It’s practically become a punchline in itself but the art of making it up on the spot is big business in Edinburgh in August. There are 96 shows in the 2017 Fringe programme that list themselves as including improvisation but they’re all in trouble because, this year the Daddy of improv has landed at the Assembly Rooms.
It’s the first time in a long time that my sides have literally hurt from laughing; in fact, the last time might have been whilst watching Whose Line on TV.
Whose Line is it Anyway? ran for ten seasons on Channel 4 in the UK and is currently in its 13th season in the US so there’s no doubt that this is a successful formula. A host setting up improvisational scenes to be acted out by four performers with occasional musical interludes is such a simple concept that it belies the real skill and wit displayed on stage.
UK series host, Clive Anderson bounds onto the stage and gives us a topical opening monologue before explaining the simple rules and introducing the improv panel. The show has a changing roster of performers each night and this evening we have show regulars Mike McShane and Colin Mochrie alongside Steve Frost and, a welcome surprise, Richard Vranch who usually provided music on the TV show but has escaped from behind the piano and will be stretching his acting skills instead. Piano duties are in the talented hands of Kirsty Newton who provides everything from opera to punk from her multi-key setup.
It’s hard to give an impression of what the show could be each night as the cast and the skits will change constantly but you can be guaranteed that, if the quality of improv on display is consistently as good as this show, you’re in for a real treat. The TV version was always hilarious but there’s a real thrill and sense of talented anarchy behind seeing it live. No-one is having more fun than the cast but we’re all having a great time too and there’s more than one occasion when I’m doubled-up, unable to breathe from laughter. It’s the first time in a long time that my sides have literally hurt from laughing; in fact, the last time might have been whilst watching Whose Line on TV.