Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, The Other Palace

So much fun to be had with the hilarious guys of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at The Other Palace

“It’s time you felt my gay-rage”

I’ve been watching the Showstopper crew for as long as I’ve been blogging (the King’s Head was a great venue for them), so it’s a real treat to see them constantly move onwards and upwards, stepping up from their monthly West End residencies (which they’re still continuing) to a fully fledged 7 week run at The Other Palace, during which they’ll celebrate their 1,000th show.

For the uninitiated, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is a show that is made up on the spot by a group of disgustingly talented comedians, taken from ideas given by the audience in terms of musical influences, plot twists and titles. It’s as simple as that and it is ingeniously done, night after night, to produce a brand new musical each time, which has never failed to leave me helpless with laughter. Continue reading “Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, The Other Palace”

Review: Sorry, VAULT Festival

The joy in improv is being right there in the room and with the comedians of Sorry, there’s such joy, catch them at the VAULT Festival in March

“Sorry I’m late, there were fishermen wanking on the Northern Line”

Improv done well is one of the greatest pleasures I know, and Sorry’s take on the form, which is inexplicably only playing at the VAULT Festival for a couple of dates, has to be some of the best I’ve seen. Over the hour of inspired improvised insanity, the audience was crying with laughter, half the company were helpless too and as ever, you had to be there to even begin to comprehend how funny it was.

To provide the inspiration for their improv, Sorry’s shows begin with a chat with a special guest (tonight saw them invite Dust playwright Milly Thomas) which throws up all sorts of ideas which are then incorporated into the comedy routine that follows. Thomas proved extremely game, revealing a hatred for salmon and a love for giant freaky dolls among other things, which set us off for great things. Continue reading “Review: Sorry, VAULT Festival”

News: Austentatious and Murder She Didn’t Write announce extensions

Great news as both Austentatious and Murder She Didn’t Write announce extensions although #ImprovSundays look to be over 🙁

Following a season of smash-hit performances during 2018 (a fair few of which I managed to see), Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel have announced that they will begin a Monday night residency at the Fortune Theatre, London from 18 February 2019.  And in particularly good news for fans of the troupe, a new loyalty card is also being introduced offering a fifth performance for free once you’ve attended four performances at the Fortune Theatre. 

And similarly coming off a successful year, Degrees of Error’s hilarious Murder, She Didn’t Write will continue their monthly shows at the Leicester Square Theatre as their residency has been extended with shows now booked until May 2019. In addition to this, they are due to embark on a national tour where they will bring their Agatha Christie-inspired improv to audiences across England come the New Year.

Continue reading “News: Austentatious and Murder She Didn’t Write announce extensions”

Review: Austentatious, Savoy Theatre

The first of three opportunities to see Austentatious at the Savoy Theatre in December in a hilariously scandalous affair indeed

“We’ll buff them in the vestry”

Spreading festive cheer all month long at the Savoy, Austentatious’s Christmas season got off with a bang (ooh vicar) with the saucily inclined Carry On Follow That Carriage. As ever, trying to describe the experience of watching a lost Jane Austen come to life in front of you is to be on a hiding to nothing but among the joys here were erotic flipbooks, bible polishing, dogging in Stevenage, the joys of a reverse flicking and – don’t tell PETA – all kinds of avian murder.  

And even when you think that there’s no way this surreally random collection of story threads could ever come together, the skills of this improv troupe becomes apparent as a resolution hoves into view as if never in doubt. Cariad Lloyd’s bawdy card-playing sister was a hoot, I loved Amy Cooke-Hodgson’s Mrs Bryce and Graham Dickson’s reactions to Andrew Hunter Murray’s late-blooming physicality were inspired. Honestly, there’s few better ways to spend a Sunday evening.  

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Photo: Robert Viglasky
Austentatious is next playing at the Savoy Theatre on 9th and 16th December

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”