JUMPROV Press Launch
The Wellington, Birmingham, Wednesday 19th April, 2017
Up on the second floor of this majestic old pub, a select and invited assembly are treated to an hour of hilarity, courtesy of Sunny Dhap and his newly-formed, BAME improvisation troupe, JUMPROV. The purpose of the evening is to launch the group in advance of their first full show next month, and if what I saw is anything to go by, it promises to be a riot of inventive and witty sketches, seeming pulled out of thin air.
Many of the ‘games’ are familiar to anyone who has ever seen Whose Line Is It Anyway? or has participated in acting classes, but the familiarity with some of the format makes us feel like we know where we are with this unknown quantity. There’s the Alphabet one, where each line of scene must begin with the subsequent letter, the hands one where actors stand behind others and become their hands – you know the deal. And they take suggestions from the audience, of course – we are invited to shout out ideas or submit them on slips of paper which are then fed into dialogue as surprises.
Nothing fazes anyone – the team work like a well-oiled machine, sharing the kind of strong rapport necessary to keep the enterprise from falling flat on its face – and they’re all so damned likeable we even enjoy the responses that don’t quite spark (these are few in comparison with the moments that hit the mark).
Dhap is a genial host and a witty participant – there is nothing that is thrown at the others that he won’t do himself. The others (David Jackson, Adaya Henry, Marius Turner, Chantal Erraoui, Jay Droch, and Jade Samuels) are just as quick-witted and versatile. Moments that stay with me are a couple on a date on a farm, a game of Blind Date with Theresa May as a contestant, and an extended game in a supermarket where the quick-thinking and skilful characterisations come to the fore. Of course, if you see the show, you will get something completely different; such is the nature of improvised comedy. Tonight is a preview of what’s to come and is fast-moving and snappy. I would like to see one or two extended sketches, where situations and stories are allowed to develop – perhaps in the full show there will be time for this.
What makes Jumprov different is also what gives them an edge over other improv groups: their diversity. They are liberated from the awkwardness of so-called political correctness and are free to represent characters from racial backgrounds, characters that are based on truth and experience rather than stereotype. In a predominantly white sphere, Jumprov is a fresh approach, able to bring something closer to life in multi-cultural Birmingham and, by extension, the UK as a whole.
Best line of the night comes from Asian actor Jay Droch: “About as welcome as a ham sandwich in a mosque.” It’s well-timed and, in context, delightful, and we, the audience, feel ‘permitted’ to laugh rather than express discomfort or even outrage, had the line come from a Caucasian mouth.
A wonderful evening in the company of talented entertainers; I look forward to supporting them at future shows.
Jumprov’s first full show will be at The Old Joint Stock Theatre, 4 Temple Row, Birmingham B2 5NY on Thursday 4th May, 2017 at 8pm. Tickets are £10 plus booking fee and available from jumprov.com – Advisory note: Over 18s only.