The Oxford Imps: Pun & Games

Tue 5th – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 00:54 on 13th Aug 2014

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Pun and games by the Oxford Imps (Imps. Improv. Geddit?) is a fast-paced, energetic improvised sketch show. Using a format that is very much reminiscent of the warm up exercises in drama class, the team of Imps, organised and egged on by compere Ed Scrivens, use their wit and quick thinking to create sketches on the spot to specifications demanded by the audience. The result is somewhat mixed. Many scenes were incredibly clever and amusing, but others failed to get much of a laugh out of the viewers.

Now one of many improv shows at the Fringe, the Imps must work increasingly hard to think of new games that audiences have not seen before. Their use of a range of material, from Shakespeare to workplace drama, is inventive, and the performers use it well. Their sheer confidence in their ability to think on their feet is impressive, and the songs and raps they invent, with lyrics in perfect rhyme, are amazing. These are accompanied by improv pianist Xander Pike, whose musical skills compliment the actors’ talent perfectly.

Audience interaction features heavily in any improve show, and it is definitely something that you need to be in the mood for. If it weren’t for a few particularly vocal member of today’s audience, there would have been many an awkward pause. Scrivens does an excellent job of keeping the energy up, encouraging everyone when input is needed and ending scenes before they get tedious.

The fact that everything is made up on the spot means that watching can be, at times, a tense experience; the action that unfolds is constantly only a split second away from grinding to a halt. This pressure is occasionally apparent in the faces and body language of the performers, but for the most part they manage it well.

This is an incredibly enjoyable show to watch, if slightly dependent on the audience being up for it. The upbeat pop music that the cast jump around to between scenes means the whole show feels like a party, if a very cheesy one. It is clear that the cast are enjoying themselves. This is not gut-wrenchingly hilarious from start to finish, but it is an easy and light hearted way to spend an afternoon.

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Georgina Wilson

at 09:38 on 13th Aug 2014

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A burst of life, a burst of sound, a burst of energy and the Oxford Imp(roviser)s – geddit?- come tumbling and raving onto the stage. It’s a good starting point; the music ranging from Mcfly to S Club 7 that splits up the sketches keeps audience and cast buzzing enough to create and enjoy this series of fast-paced sketches which never quite drain the cast’s unceasing creativity.

Compere Ed Scrivens does excellent work in explaining each sketch and moving the show on, although sometimes his joviality comes dangerously close to condescension. The show is divided into about six different parts. The troupe improvise a song, tell a story with a line each, play an extended version of charades, and finish up with the grand finale of “an unperformed play of William Shakespeare”; which on this particular day is entitled The Carpenter of Berlin.

This part of the show is nearly as long as the rest of it put together and is clearly what they excel at the most. The Imps, after all, have another show caked The Curious Case of the Improvised Musical and it’s clear that they are well-practiced in the deceptively difficult task of maintaining a cohesive plot and characters alongside the humour.

The range of sketch types reveals the inevitable fact that all of the cast members have their particular strengths and weaknesses. Sophie Ward is the most openly vivacious and enthusiastic of the bunch, Freddie Clayton was rap improviser supreme, Alice Winn remained the most consistently reliable – if never the best – in every kind of sketch.

This sketch show, as well as differing wildly from night to night as is improv’s wont, was also very differently received by different members of the audience. One thing was noticeable – the Oxford Imps, or at least the version I saw – was the most squeaky clean improv comedy I have ever seen. Have no fear in bringing your children or parents.

I admire the Imps for what they are able to do, but the Edinburgh improv comedy market is a full one. Given the title, I could have done with a few more puns. This won’t have you in hysterics but it will give you a good chuckle.

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