BOX OF FROGS
Glee Club, Birmingham, Sunday 29th July, 2018
Those who remember ground-breaking TV series, Whose Line Is It Anyway? will know what to expect at an evening like this: a succession of games and set-ups that allow the actors to flex their improvisational skills. And so, the format is pretty familiar, but it is the content that remains unexpected. Our host is the amiable Jon Trevor, who sketches in the ‘rules’ for each sketch before selecting which improvisers will play. With plenty of input from the audience (occupations, objects, delusions…) the team members are firing on all cylinders to keep the laughs coming. The hit rate is pretty high and there’s a certain tension in the air, that things won’t work – and, on the rare occasions when they don’t quite come off, are usually as funny as the moments that do, thanks to the wit and easy-going nature of the troupe and especially the host.
It is one thing to have us shouting out suggestions or have us write them down on little postcards prior to the performance, but whenever audience members are ‘volunteered’ to appear, this is where things don’t work so well. A sound effects game falls a little flat; as does a stunt involving audience members manipulating actors as giant puppets – proving that improv takes a lot of skill and a lot of practice to be able to maximise each moment. Participants need trust in each other and faith in their skills. Wisely, our host blows the whistle on these scenes pretty sharpish.
For the most part, though, the laughs keep coming thick and fast. What the group does best are the musical games. There is something extra magical about pulling tunes and lyrics out of the ether. A scene involving Jen as a barmaid, dispensing advice along with the drinks, is a scream, as three other improvisers approach with problems gleaned from the audience. Likewise, an improvised opera in gobbledegook and simultaneously translated, miraculously appears from nowhere. A blues number is a scream. Best of all is the ‘charity single’ that closes the show – on this occasion it’s an appeal for Viagra for lovelorn lepidopterists, demonstrating how in tune with each other each frog in the box truly is. It features a rap sequence by team member Rich that is dazzling in its wit and relevance.
Karen, Grant, Lee, Nick, Jen, Suzy, Rich and Jon, I salute you all – and a very special mention to keyboard wizard Geddes. The brilliant and bouncy Box of Frogs is definitely a group to see at least once before you croak.