Happily Ever Improv.

Annabel Banks 15 January 2009

ADC Lateshow 13th – 17th Jan

An improv show attracts a special type of audience. Initiates spend their days as haphazardly as possible, shouting out obscure remarks about shopping centres and cat flaps as they gleefully undermine any obvious progression of events. The reason is simple: pleasure. Having moved beyond the simple joys of scripted comedy, these lotus eaters have been enjoying a form of entertainment that refuses to let you remain passive in your seat. Here, the proscenium arch is not a symbol of distance or observation, but rather a conduit for the exchange of ideas. It’s the Nintendo Wii version of theatre: the audience give it a shake, and try to control what is going on in front of them.Saying that, the premise of Happily Ever Improv is more like those choose-your-own-adventure books we’ve all pretended not to cheat at. Unlike bare-bones improvisation, ICE provided the body of a story, and all we had to do was dress it.

From the saucy opening moments (tricking your audience into some naughty touching is an excellent way to loosen people up) till the sadly kiss-less close, the pre-set characters wandered in a randomly-generated universe, trying to resolve an equally random plot.

And it works. There were moments of pure joy – notably ones where rehearsed sequences were dropped for the sheer hell of it. Midget disco-dancers knee-shuffled across the stage, waving their feather boas; an ambiguously gesturing pea rubbed against its new friend’s leg, and an unexpected self-insertion on the part of the storyteller led to one of the most romantic proposals this reviewer has ever witnessed.

Technical production suffered from the usual first-night hiccups (an eardrum-splitting microphone needs particular attention – I like to be deafened by laughter, not feedback) but the lighting was nicely pantomime and the on-stage pianist (or ‘magical musical fairy’) gave excellent sensory background to the action.

It was a shame that some performers had less stage time than others, but this was due to a rowdy, engaged audience sabotaging everything they could.

The final pairing up and singing of happy songs happened in the wrong order, but this is the acknowledged danger of improv; knowing when, and how, to stop.

Before you see this show, have a drink in the ADC bar and think up some random things to shout out. You won’t throw them for one minute, of course – but you’ll have fun trying.

Annabel Banks