An Improbable Musical
Improbable and Royal and Derngate Northampton
Northcott Theatre, Exeter
Clever and fun, the improvisation skills of a rotating handful of comedians are put to the test in a frenetic 80 minutes on the bounce.
Of course there are set pieces deftly shoehorned into the premise picked by audience shout-outs: a special place, a word that feels good in the mouth and the first line of a fictitious chapter four, but the spontaneity is outstanding with an almost cohesive piece, complete with apposite songs.
On press night, the musical was based on Tiverton Parkway railway station, lollipop, and "then it all went wrong" allowing for commuter romance, trainspotters, time gremlins, suggestive ice lollies in the park and, taking a turn for the dark, a suicide.
Ruth Bratt (People Just Do Nothing; Showstopper! The Improvised Musical) is genius: her accents and asides hilarious; stalwart doyen of impro Josie Lawrence (Whose Line Is It Anyway?; Good Omens; The King and I; EastEnders) impresses while Niall Ashdown (Tristan and Yseult, Kneehigh, Whose Line Is It Anyway?), as shy nerd Graham and Zoom-lover and director Lee Simpson (70 Hill Lane; Lifegame, Paul Merton’s Improv Chum, Comedy Store Players) carry the story with sly skill and some off the wall comments.
Puppet-master Aya Nakamura (Famous Puppet Death Scenes; All Wrapped Up; Talking Rubbish) rocks a swimming cap and, with Clarke Joseph-Edwards (Big U; Tails of Sailortown; The Very Hungry Caterpillar live show), fills in time with a tissue paper ballet giving all a breather for hurried notes.
Christopher Ash (Showstopper! The Improvised Musical; The Borrowers) is musical deviser and director on keyboards with Max Gittings on flute, Juliet Colyer on cello and percussionist Joley Cragg providing versatile backing for a variety of songs.
A simple rotating set by E Mallin Parry has steps, scaffolding and trapdoors to become railway bridge, watch workings and much more.
Different every night—impressive.
Reviewer: Karen Bussell