Animo

Improbable and Blind Summit

Latitude Festival

From 14 July 2016 to 17 July 2016

Review by David Chadderton

This improvisation-based show is introduced by Lee Simpson, as some of the best impro shows I have seen over the years have been—in fact, he is also appearing at Latitude as one of Paul Merton's Impro Chums.

But this is not the Whose Line Is It Anyway? type of show with set games and suggestions from the audience for scenes which are abandoned after a minute if they aren't funny enough. This is improvisation that is given time to develop, which may be funny but may also be moving and serious.

It is also a puppet show, but again not as you may expect. The stage is filled with, as Simpson puts it, "crap", which the performers may or may not use in their scenes, but they are not merely props: they are brought to life by skilled puppeteer improvisers. Some of the style reminded me of very early Jim Henson, before his Sesame Street days.

The performance I saw opened with a scene—the only one based on audience suggestions—based in a mail sorting office, which took longer to develop into something than is normally allowed for a whole scene in other impro shows. Following this, two performers were manipulating a rolled-up duster, scourer and a couple of those tin foil trays you get steak puddings in at the chippy before they suddenly found they had made a face, then a character followed, then a whole scene.

There were a couple more such scenes before the show neatly returned to the sorting office, and then we got an extra scene in which an actor had a mask built directly onto his face and became, based on something shouted out by a child in the audience, a snowman who didn't have much longer to live as he was melting. It was beautifully done and was moving as well as funny.

There is still a great deal of fun to be had at the traditional impro comedy show, but you won't see anything new in the structure and concept of such a show, even if the actual lines are different each time.

This is impro: the next generation, where the form is allowed to breathe and expand into something deeper and more satisfying than the race for the next laugh, although comedy is still very much a part of this show.

The show I saw was beautiful to watch: in seeing the way it was constructed before our eyes as well as in the resulting scenes. If you go to a different performance, you won't see the show I saw, but watching these skilled performers produce living characters and scenes from "crap" is remarkable.