As someone whose experience of improvisation is limited to awkward games in GCSE drama classes, I approached the Improv musical with a degree of trepidation. The concept seemed simple enough; an hour of purely improvised entertainment by a group of musical theatre actors who create a play from a location, two characters, and a style of music which the audience provide, as well as a plot diversion half-way through.
When you think about this more, the idea of standing onstage with no help but your fellow cast-members and a terrifyingly omnipotent audience, it seems like most people’s worst nightmares. However, having been twice to Edinburgh and going again this year, I had faith in this show and in MTW’s talented bunch of actors.
The production was wittily named: ‘Too old for a lollipop’
As I entered the bare performance space for the ‘one night only’ show, which housed only a keyboard, a whiteboard for ideas and a row of chairs for the actors (leaving them with little to hide behind) I did get a thrill of second-hand fear. But with a full audience and compère Florian Pierre Panizeri , whose voice was reminiscent of a night at the Olivier’s, the atmosphere was soon buzzing.
Eventually settling on the location (the toilets in Smack) and characters (the lady who sells lollipops in the ladies and a creepy man way too old to be there) the production, wittily named: ‘Too old for a lollipop’, got underway and what followed can only be described as brilliant. Accompanied on keyboard by the fantastically talented Theo x, the cast improvised nine songs from ‘Smack Attack (no going back!)’ to ‘Beware! (Bryan)’. The show adeptly went about detailing your average club night- if your average night involves girls abandoned in the club by their mums for being too ugly, hallucinogenic lollipops, and an undercover sting operation to catch the ‘creepy man way too old to be there’ through finger snapping and semi-successful chair choreography.
Let’s just say, next time I’m in smack and there’s no show-tune style exposition about people’s life struggles I am going to be very disappointed
While some tunes were clearly planned, such as a police song evocative of Book of Mormon’s ‘I Believe’, it was the unrehearsed moments that made the show look effortless, such as Emma Tarcy’s command to the old man to ‘stop thrusting your pelvis at me!’. Chris Baker especially provided the comedy in his hilarious transition from a lonely birthday girl who had been abandoned by the friends she’d obtained with chicken nuggets, to an action hero policeman. Alongside hilarious accents from the whole cast, terrifyingly loose hip movements courtesy of Graham Stott and some of the most hysterically embarrassing rap I have ever heard, there was never a boring moment.
Although the show itself was far from perfectly polished, as the cast occasionally corpsed (laughing in performance) and stumbled over words, this only added to the hilarity. While it was never going to be as tight or synchronised as a normal musical, the true fun lay in its flaws.
Overall, the performance was electric, eclectic and entertaining- and let’s just say, next time I’m in smack and there’s no show-tune style exposition about people’s life struggles, I am going to be very disappointed.
(Also if you’re sad you missed out, the company is going to Edinburgh Festival and are holding workshops in Week 2 Thursday and Week 3 Friday so check Facebook if you are interested!)