Review: Impro-geddon

Harriet Willmoth 30 January 2020
Image credit: Miguel Spirit Labels

How would you deal with the apocalypse? The Impronauts might have the answer.

Most of us have thought about the question, ‘what would you do in an apocalypse’. According to this particular version of Impro-geddon, the Impronauts’ answer would be: hide in an Ikea while trying to fight off an army of goblins armed only with a flat-pack gun, slightly shaky D&D knowledge, and many, many chairs. Last night, this improv-comedy group delighted us with an eclectic bunch of bizarre characters as they dealt with both the apocalypse and a web of worrying interpersonal relationships.

Isobel Maxwell gave a consistently funny performance as a sexually-confused, naïve eighteen-year-old, with a penchant both for breaking into people’s houses and for concerning/hilarious infatuations with a mother-figure – Freud, eat your heart out. ‘Betty’ was funny, energetic, and sometimes refreshingly dark, chipping in with jokes on subjects as diverse as bi-erasure, hiding in cupboards, and parental neglect, beautifully building an exceptionally quirky character.

Image credit: Sophiaa Marshall

Barney Jeff Slater was particularly strong as an evil table-maker desperate for vengeance on Ikea. He gave a witty performance throughout, embracing the ridiculousness of his character. His interactions with his daughter’s-boyfriend-turned-goblin-master, played by Adam Al-janabi, were definitely highlights; Al-janabi was also very funny and full of character.

All of the Impronauts performed well as individuals and there were many moments of real hilarity, but this was not a perfect performance. As is often the way with improvised theatre, there were moments when interactions became awkward, especially when in smaller groups. Pauses sometimes went on for slightly longer than was comfortable, until eventually broken by a much-needed gag or a lighting-induced scene-change. Had lighting changes been more quickly and liberally employed, relief would have been given to both performers and audience-members.

Other problems occurred with sudden changes of tone. There were some genuinely deep interactions, including emotionally-charged arguments, soul-searching discussions, and even a long and heart-felt hug. These could have been rather sweet in a different show; here they felt out of place.

Image credit: Sophiaa Marshall

A musical performer altered the atmosphere of scenes by improvising background music. Sometimes, this was very effective, especially when performers built on overly-tense or dramatic music to create something quite silly. However, in moments when scenes became too serious, this was only amplified by an equally earnest soundtrack. In fact, regarding sound, lighting, and even an unused, onstage costume-rack, I felt some opportunities were missed.

That said, I sympathised with the Impronauts having to deal with an off-putting audience. While improv is meant to be interactive, some spectators took this too far and essentially tried to join in. Performers dealt admirably while shouted at, talked to, and talked over by the over-eager and blatantly rude. One Impronaut did interact with the ‘contributions’ for comedic effect. However, it is a real shame that they had to deal with such a challenging environment.

Nevertheless, I was thoroughly entertained. Our adventure through an Ikea in Dorset was wonderfully bizarre, and everybody had a good laugh in the process. I’d recommend Impro-geddon to anyone looking for a spontaneous late-night chuckle.

3.5 stars