Improvabunga

Fri 2nd – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Patty McCabe

at 22:11 on 12th Aug 2013

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‘Improvabunga.’ ‘Bunga?’ I immediately think of Italy’s favourite funny-man (sorry Prime Minister!) Berlusconi’s infamous ‘bunga-bunga’ parties. I suppose I’m not far off; Watch This’ improvised comedy show ‘Improvabunga’ uses audience suggestions to create a new story every night, with the talented cast taking on the roles of the on-the-spot heroes in whatever sticky situation fate places them in. Although there was nothing particular original about their style of improvised comedy, ‘Improvabunga’ gave me a few laughs and, after all, when did a dose of light entertainment hurt anyone?

The introduction to the cast was novel, with the audience suggesting inanimate objects for the subject of their first taste of improvised comedy. This time we were treated to chapter 14 of the autobiography of a rock (Tyler Harding), a song about tomato puree (Joe Belham), and an argument over smelly feet (Lou College and Tom Geggus). After this set of innovative introductions, the audience were asked to pick a Genre, sub-genre, location, and title of the story we would be witnessing that evening. The picks this night were thriller, crime, volcano, and the highly original ‘Volcanic Crime’ respectively.

Audience participation did not stop here. Jake Williams handed out buttons to the audience, each with a different function that could only be used once: one would force the troupe to erupt into song, another would cause an advert, and the final would supposedly induce an Oscar-winning moment. It is a shame the lucky recipient of this buzzer never decided to press it during our performance.

Our story consisted of a presumably Godfather-inspired tale of Mafia men and an English tour guide who had somehow discovered a volcano that spewed liquid gold. I know what you’re thinking; this is clearly a fool-proof story. Amidst some dubious-and-not-so-dubious accents, gun fights, shady phone calls, and doughnut-munching cops, we had a song about having not enough education to work in Subway and an advert putting your balls on the line. The cast were consistent throughout and reacted with impressive speed to one another. All this was set to atmospheric music by Josh Sood, complete with a prom suit and a sample of Meatloaf.

Although perhaps Berlusconi’s antics would have given me more laughs, ‘Improvabunga’ was full of light comedy and showed plenty of promise. Not exactly slick, but never clumsy, ‘Volcanic Crime’ was harmlessly funny. There may well be better improvised comedy groups out there, but I doubt Watch This would ever disappoint!

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Georgina Wilson

at 09:29 on 13th Aug 2013

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“As you can tell from the conversation, I don’t actually know what my life is”. Well none of the characters do in this fifty minute improvisation which proceeds in wayward, witty lurches of inspiration. As the lights went up on the six-strong troop, things kicked off with a two-sided audience cheering competition; instantly I was writhing in my seat with a horrible anticipation of the cheap audience-led laughs to come. Was this to be children’s entertainment? Cheery smiles and slapstick humour without a definitive ending in sight? I needn’t have worried. Flawless this show was not by any means, but I laughed out loud more frequently than in any other comedy I’ve seen this year, scripted or otherwise.

The members of the cast were introduced to us in a variety of thirty-second “Improvabunga” tasters. These ranged widely in their level of success, my personal highlight being Joe Belham’s song on the randomly chosen subject of tomato puree. He miraculously squeezed out the topic into a few verses, which both rhymed and were melodiously sung to the tune of an unknown piano chord sequence. It might not sound too hard, but a similar attempt by Jake Williams was always just a step behind the key changes and never made it past what we might call “free verse” into the realms of rhyming couplets. It became retrospectively clear how musically and linguistically gymnastic Mr Belham was with mental muscles that most of us don’t even know we possess.

This wasn’t the only realisation to dawn on me as I sat through the performance, my chuckles becoming increasingly less grudging and more frequent. As the chosen piece unfolded (moulded by the title “Volcanic Crime”, chosen randomly by the audience) I realised how sensitive the lighting technicians had to be to the improvisation going on before them. I suppose it should have crossed my mind earlier that the people behind the switches had no means of communication with those on stage; but then again the scene-endings forcibly imposed by darkness looked so natural that it was easy to forget they were unplanned. Just once were two cast members (who shall remain anonymous) left on-stage struggling to piece together yet more dialogue to satisfy the demands of the continually blazing lights, but it came across more as good-natured theatrical teasing within a close-knit company than anything else.

Stretched they certainly were, but a strong and snappy rapport between the cast, (particularly in the well-received scenes between Jake Williams and Joe Belham) made up for the odd moments of weakness to create a jaunty and enjoyable evening.

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