Rhapsodes

Extempore Theatre and Something for the Weekend

Pleasance Dome

From 14 August 2017 to 27 August 2017

Rating: *****

Review by Amy Yorston

Fringe regulars Adam Meggido and Sean McCann return to delight audiences with witty wordplay and powerful poetry.

It’s a new play each day for they extemporise (the old word for improvisation) based on audience suggestion. For the uninitiated it’s ‘improvised Shakespeare’ but that description doesn’t really do the duo justice and makes the experience sound far too dry.

Part hilarious improvisation and part education, Rhapsodes will make Shakespeare haters fall in love with language and Shakespeare fans marvel at the improvised authenticity.

Instead of simply asking for vague suggestions, the pair ask the audience for stories, experiences and events that they then weave into their piece. The style, also chosen by the audience, can be comedy, tragedy, history or late play and is performed in both iambic pentameter and prose.

For this performance, the tale of the Great Grenadier (the ancestor of a chap named Phil) who fought in the Crimean war (and was so large he needed a reinforced bed) formed the basis of the plot. It also featured other audience suggestions such as a rousing war speech featuring the words spirit, queen and sausage, the Fringe experience of a lady called Rebecca and the story of mistaken identity by the police in Guildford. Chaos in any other improv show but cleverly intertwined into the story arch here.

Shakespeare isn’t it though; Chaucer takes a turn, W S Service makes an appearance and Pinter and Poe take part in a poetry battle. Masters of their art Meggido and McCann clearly relish each challenge that the audience throws their way and their excitable energy is infectious. Whilst clearly a tight team, their competitive streak still shines through and they egg each other on, offering comical punishments for broken rhyme schemes and pushing the boundaries of the form.

Fast-paced, safely interactive, dazzlingly quick and hugely inventive this is stylised improv at its finest.