Not-really-a-Review: Austentatious, Savoy

“It’s coming home”

It’s hard to kick a habit but when Austentatious provide as much fun as they do at their monthly residence at the Savoy, why should I even try to resist? Last night’s entertainment was Ocean’s 5: Bennett Sisters – Marine Heist and offered up a pleasingly different twist on this improvised show, relegating romantic plot to the sidelines for once as gambling dens, cockney Bennetts, competitive musical chairs and chess, and the power of Peter Stringfellow’s hair took the limelight instead. And as is only right on Pride weekend, when a wedding did occur, it was a lesbian one. I couldn’t recommend these  guys any more, check out their website for upcoming dates.

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Photo: Robert Viglasky
Austentatious is next playing at the Savoy Theatre on 30th September. You can also catch it in Edinburgh in August, and on tour

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s new play Emilia already looked like one of the top tips of Michelle Terry’s inaugural season at the Globe and with this cast announcement, Nicole Charles’ production fast becomes an absolute must-see!

Nadia Albina will play Lady Katherine 
Anna Andresen will play Mary Sidney 
Shiloh Coke will play Lady Anne Clifford
Leah Harvey will play Emilia 1
Jenni Maitland will play Countess of Kent 
Clare Perkins will play Emilia 3 
Carolyn Pickles will play Lord Henry Carey 
Vinette Robinson will play Emilia 2 
Sophie Russell will play Lord Thomas Howard
Sarah Seggari will play Lady Cordelia 
Sophie Stone will play Lady Margaret Clifford 
Charity Wakefield will play William Shakespeare 
Amanda Wilkin will play Alphonso Lanier

In 1611 Emilia Bassano penned a volume of radical, feminist and subversive poetry. It was also the first published collection of poetry written by a woman in England. Lloyd Malcolm promises to reveal the life of Emilia: poet, mother and feminist from the 10th August. See you there? Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Review: Austentatious, Savoy

A belated return to one of the funniest improv groups out there – catch Austentatious at the Savoy, at Edinburgh or on tour across the UK

“I would be from Brighton if I could”

It’s been a little while since I’ve been to see the Austentatious guys, absence makes the heart fonder and all that, but a Sunday night at the Savoy proved harder to resist. And once there, I did being to wonder how I could have left it six months to indulge once again in some of the funniest shenanigans you could hope to see on a West End stage.

For the uninitiated, Austentatious is an improvised show, whereby a lost Jane Austen classic is performed for our pleasure, based on a title suggested by the audience. Tonight’s play was entitled Queer Eye for the Regency Guy, an appropriate choice for Pride month and a searing tale of forbidden love, funny walks, and avocados. Continue reading “Review: Austentatious, Savoy”

Review: Murder She Didn’t Write, Leicester Square

You couldn’t make it up – oh wait, they do! Improvised murder mystery show Murder She Didn’t Write brightens up the last Sunday of the month at the Leicester Square Theatre.

“Who would choke the chickens?”

Fresh from sellout success at the Edinburgh Fringe, the folks of Degrees of Error are clearly hoping that their murder mystery show Murder She Didn’t Write will emulate the success of fellow improv stars Showstopper and Austentatious, both of which are now enjoying monthly residencies in the West End.

Murder She Didn’t Write’s London debut thus comes at the Leicester Square Theatre and on this hilarious evidence, you wouldn’t put it past them to follow in the footsteps up to Shaftesbury Avenue. Playing out like a cross between a live action game of Cluedo and pure stand-up – this is Poirot on laughing gas. Continue reading “Review: Murder She Didn’t Write, Leicester Square”

Review: Austentatious, Piccadilly

“I am nine and ten, NINE AND TEN”

 

It’s no secret that I do enjoy a bit of improv and alongside The Showstoppers, Austentatious are surely one of the most reliably entertaining and inventive of companies in the field. Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan, regularly attending their monthly residency at the Leicester Square Theatre and so I was delighted to find out that they’ve gone for an upgrade and for the next few months, you can find them in one of the grander houses of the West End at the Piccadilly Theatre.
 
If you’re new to the game, audiences get to suggest the title of a lost Jane Austen work like below

Continue reading “Review: Austentatious, Piccadilly”

Review: Graeme of Thrones, Charing Cross

“It’s going to be Hodorable…”

If you haven’t seen an episode of Game of Thrones, I’m not entirely why you would want to come and see a show that spoofs it lovingly if relentlessly. The blurb for Graeme of Thrones mentions it could be seen as “an introduction for the unenlightened” but let’s be frank, to expect a rapid-fire comedy show to catch you up on seven seasons of intricately plotted fantasy drama and enable you to get such puns as the one above is to make you as naive as, well, Ned Stark.
But for the initiated, there’s lots to enjoy in this madcap which rattle through an inordinate amount of material in its 90 minutes and still barely scratches the surface of the Seven Kingdoms. From its hilarious re-enactment of the opening credits to the arrival of actual dragons*, John-Luke Roberts, Nicola Lamont and Ross Spaine work overtime to take us from Westeros to Essos and back and cover as much of the plot as they can shoehorn in, along with jokes at many of the tropes it fully embraces.
And a fair amount of it is properly funny. The introduction of the Stark children (poor Rickon!), the shifts in perspective needed to bring Bran’s fall to life or to convince us of Tyrion’s height, Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s predilection for love duets… And when they really cut loose, it is hilarious, as in channeling the Lord of Light via some Berlin gay fetish dungeon, giving us a tableau vivant from the viewpoint of the boar that killed Robert Baratheon, and Sansa’s vivid journey to womenhood.
As with much comedy, there’s a variable hit-rate though, as here that mainly comes through the framing device of a theatre company pitching this show to potential investors, unable to keep their personal lives from bleeding through into the action. As necessary as these breaks are, to allow the performers a little breathing space and time to change costumes, the notion of Lloyd Webber or an HBO lawyer being in the audience is just not as funny as the amount of time it is given here.
But Graeme of Thrones isn’t the type of show to examine too closely. Programmed into the late slot at the Charing Cross (10pm starts means it is nearly 11.30pm when you’re done), you’re best off going with the flow, sinking a pint or three or however much it takes for you to giggle at the daftest of jokes, and preparing yourself for some potential light audience participation. Inventive and irreverent, it’s ideal late night entertainment.
Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 11th November
.

Not-a-review: Austentatious, Leicester Square

I should find some other way to record these ongoing visits to Austentatious…tonight’s offering was Mad Mademoiselle Marion and the Magic Pony, good fun as ever but re-using a few elements I’ve seen them do before (which is a little understandable when we’re practically at stalking level now!).

Comedy Review: Adam Kay – Fingering A Minor On The Piano, Soho

“I’m like a medical Anne Frank”

The title of Fingering A Minor On The Piano apparently stems from former doctor turned comic Adam Kay trying to ensure that none of Nicholas Parsons’ audience stayed on to watch the show when the two were programmed back-to-back at Edinburgh last year. It gives nothing away about what the show actually is, a fast-paced hour of journal readings from Kay’s hospital diary interspersed with musical punchlines, building to a gut-punch of a climax that flies the flag for our beleaguered NHS.
It’s a strong combination – there’s endless dark humour in the snippets of life as a medical professional, climbing the ranks from inexperienced house officer to registrar in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology, as he deals with any number of complaints from eye-wincing penis injuries to spots on the tongue (taste buds!) whilst acknowledging the strains it puts on trainee doctors with their 16 hour days and the struggles it imposes on trying to maintain a normal life and relationship at the same time.
The increasingly sad array of missed dinner dates, Christmases and parties, alongside the infinite patience that comes with being part of the NHS, are balanced with his repurposed musical sketches which allows Kay to vary the mood as he works any condition you’ve heard of into pop songs (‘The Girl With Emphysema’, ‘Wheezy (like Sunday morning)’), ranging from the benign to the truly caustic, with some audience participation testing our own medical knowledge thrown in there for good measure.
But for all the laughter, it is the final moments of the show that linger longest in the memory. Kay stops trying to make us laugh or keep us entertained and instead relates the heart-breaking case that resulted in him abandoning his career as a doctor. It’s a scorchingly honest and emotional moment and one which gains more power as Kay turns his laser gaze onto Jeremy Hunt’s dishonourable behaviour around junior doctors and the government’s treatment of the NHS in general, making a mockery of claims that doctors are in it for the money and reminding us all just how precious a resource our NHS is. Fiercely effective, highly recommended.
Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 7th June

Review: Showstopper, Lyric

“You can’t let the pipes play you, you play the pipes”

After their residency at the Apollo, the Showstopper team have skipped along to the Lyric where they have been performing their brand of improvised musical on a random selection of Mondays, roughly every three weeks. If you’re new to their work, Showstopper is created anew on the night, suggestions garnered from the audience for the title and the various styles of musical theatre in which the songs will be improvised. And it is always extremely good fun and frequently hilarious, hence my multiple visits over the years.
This evening we saw Greece!, a tale of aspiring thespians, goats, mischievous demi-gods, mysterious rambling women and some impressive pipes, set at the base of Mount Olympus and other assorted ancient Greek venues. And musically we went from Gilbert and Sullivan to West Side Story to Andrew Lloyd Webber, though the highlights were the Hamilton-style love duet (big up to Andrew Pugsley and Pippa Evans) and a truly lovely Waitress-inspired number which although ostensibly a comic number about Dionysus, possessed a strikingly powerful musicality (led by the divine Ruth Bratt). The perfect way to liven up a Monday evening.
Running time: 90 minutes (with interval)
Future performances: Monday 15 May 7.30pm; Monday 5 June 7.30pm