Review: How To Date a Magical Creature, VAULT Festival

Pushing the boundaries of improv beyond the mortal realm, How To Date a Magical Creature is a comic highlight at this week’s VAULT Festival

Sometimes you just have to murder David Attenborough””

The beauty of improv is, of course, that you can make up anything you like and so it follows that you can base an improv show around anything. Which is, I think, how we’ve ended up with How To Date a Magical Creature, a Parky-style chat show with a guest list made up of an array of fantastical beasts suggested by the audience . 

And from their imagination at this show, were plucked such luminaries as the Loch Ness Monster with wings, an ethnically ambiguous unicorn, and the Mongolian deathworm, not to mention Turnip the teenage witch and Hades. An eclectic and impressive mixture, all put through their paces by effortlessly charismatic host Toby Vanilla (Jonah Fazel), a man who knows just what his voice can do… Continue reading “Review: How To Date a Magical Creature, VAULT Festival”

2019 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see

With less than a week to go before the 2019 VAULT Festival opens, I wade my way through the catalogue and come up with 20 shows I think you should catch – in their own words

Now in its seventh year, VAULT Festival returns this year from 23rd January to 17th March with a broad and diverse programme of more than 400 shows in a range of atmospheric venues throughout Waterloo. And as ever, the remit is to be as big and bold as impossible, with the festival featuring theatre, comedy, cabaret, immersive experiences, late night parties, and much more besides.

It can be a little overwhelming to figure out what you want to see, the majority of shows run for a week (Wednesday to Sunday) so you’ll need to move pretty sharpish once you’ve decided – there’s the VAULT Combo deal which saves you money booking more than one show, and some 241 deals available through the Stagedoor app. And to help you, I’ve identified 20 shows (and it could have been so many more!) that appealed to me and asked them to sell themselves in 10 words or less in order to grab your attention.  Continue reading “2019 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see”

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


No prizes for guessing where I was this Sunday evening…my second visit of the month to Austentatious at the Savoy Theatre

“You don’t deserve the name crumpet…”

The ghosts of female golf players, pirate nuns, an alarming number of people willing to dig graves, feminist shaming, Irish cultural appropriation, neglected bakers, the most malevolent Mrs Beeton you ever did meet and a breakout musical number from Mr Crumpet that ought to be the Christmas number one. My umpteenth visit to Austentatious, now firmly ensconced in the Savoy Theatre for the Sundays in December, saw us catch Mist and Mistresses.

You don’t get many people called Cecil these days do you. And how I would have loved to have see Wickham getting high in High Wycombe – I think Professor Sam Patton dropped the ball there! But this was a classic of unhappy marriages, unfortunately dead wives, and infidelity on the pier, all set in the swirling mist which allowed for all sorts of shenanigans (Jorge!) and hilarity. Honestly, if you’ve not been to see these guys yet, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Robert Viglasky
Booking: one more show at the Savoy in 2018, on 16th December 

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 / 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, 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”

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!).