Tag Archives: improv

Just Four Fun


Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 4th October, 2018


Any improv show is reliant on good suggestions from the audience.  Tonight, our quartet of performers is faced with plenty of beans and chips related ideas – and they make a meal of it.  Yes, I’m at another improv gig and this time it’s The Improlectuals.  Hosting duties are shared by Richard Baldwin and Robert Lane, as they introduce the games, field audience suggestions, and stage-manage the action.

Baldwin is a good-allrounder, reaching particular heights of hilarity in a game which involves him divining from our reaction the action we have chosen for him to perform.  His contortions eventually lead him to peeling potatoes in a supermarket trolley, and we couldn’t be happier.

Lane, another good-allrounder, distinguishes himself with his guitar playing, accompanying impromptu musical numbers, sometimes supporting, sometimes steering the spontaneous songsters.

Also performing this time are Matthew Dibbens and Nathan Blyth, a versatile pair.  In fact, all four actors prove their talent, versatility and quick-wittedness but Blyth does all that while being rather good-looking, which is hardly fair.

Some of the games are familiar to those of us who recall TV’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? and others bring back memories of my drama teaching days.  Some have better legs than others, some take off straight away, and some meander a bit, but on the whole, the hit rate is pretty high.  We do a great deal of laughing out loud.  A game in which the actors switch accents at the honk of a horn is an absolute hoot.  A Chinese-whispers type game, done with action rather than words, works a treat, but for me the best games involve the creation of songs on the spot.

The magic of improv brings its own brand of tension, but when it clicks, as it does countless times tonight, it is truly marvellous to behold.

I would perhaps alter the running order a little, so the show has a stronger opening game, saving the Two-Headed Emails for later on, when we have warmed to the performers – which doesn’t take long at all!

A very funny and entertaining evening with no shortage of creative energy.  The Improlectuals deserve larger audiences than the select group that mustered to see them tonight.

improlectuals bubble











Leaps of Faith


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.

box of frogs

Gleeful: another Box of Frogs show gets under way




Jumprov Jumps Off

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.