Review: Murder She Didn’t Write, Leicester Square Theatre

Improv Sundays continue with a return visit to Murder She Didn’t Write at the Leicester Square Theatre

“It is a clown’s lot not to be happy in life”

Just a quickie for this as I wrote up Murder She Didn’t Write last month (review here) and there’s not too much more to say about them, than to reiterate if you’re not watching improv on a Sunday, you’re doing London wrong. This Sunday’s show saw us solve The Case of the Seatless Unicycle, a tragic tale of cats’ birthdays, clowns(!), and cupboards which saw the Degrees of Error crew having a whale of a time and possibly smuttier than ever!

The very notion of an improvised show means it is hard to review it properly, you will never get to see the show I saw (pauvre Marcel…) and it’s likely I’ll miss the one you see when you take my advice to book after reading this. But you can rest assured that this is a talented company of comedians who have the relaxed ease of knowing they’re good at what they do and if they try just hard enough, they can make each other laugh just as much as the audience. (I do love a good corpse.)

Photo: Jamie Corbin
Murder She Didn’t Write next plays at the Leicester Square Theatre on the 18th November, further touring dates here

 

Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit, Finborough

New at the Finborough Theatre, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City proves gently compelling

I can make cancer jokes. Because I have cancer”

Deep breath – Halley Feiffer’s play is entitled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, an entry into titles that are amusingly long when you start to read them but soon end up trying the patience (qv We Are Proud To Present… and I’d Rather Goya). Overall though, the play is better than that.

A wee slip of a thing at barely 80 minutes, it’s a admirably bold take on ‘the cancer play’. That much is clear from the ribald humour of its opening sequence and an initial sense that the focus isn’t going to be on the two women in the hospital beds, but rather their adult children – Cariad Lloyd’s Karla and Rob Crouch’s Don – who are putting in the hours at their bedsides. Continue reading “Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit, Finborough”

Review: Murder She Didn’t Write / Austentatious

If it’s Sunday, it must be improv. I check out the return of both Murder She Didn’t Write to the Leicester Square Theatre and Austentatious to the Savoy

“I see I am not the only one swelling with possibility”

Sundays are obviously the right time to catch improv companies in London and when their work is this good, why wouldn’t you indulge? I was a big fan of Murder She Didn’t Write when I first caught it earlier this year (review here) and it was little surprise to hear they’d had a successful run in Edinburgh, followed by a rebooking of the Leicester Square Theatre for a monthly residency.

Theirs is an Agatha Christie-style improvisation, taking shoutouts from the crowd for settings and murder weapons (this afternoon saw The Case of the Ice Syringe set at a plastic surgeon’s office) and then spending a good half of the running time establishing its world of batty characters, one of whom will cork it at the interval.

The use of a detective narrator figure provides ample opportunity to pick up on the jokes ripe for further milking, and I particularly enjoyed the way in which one of the unused audience suggestions of Australia Day became a well-worked recurring joke. And it is clear that there’s great chemistry in this group, mercilessly ribbing each other, egging on the corpsing and pushing their inventive improv to its limits. Continue reading “Review: Murder She Didn’t Write / Austentatious”

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
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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!).