Review: Improvengers Assemble

Tom Bevan 11 November 2015

The Cambridge Impronauts’ latest offering is the superhero-themed Improvengers Assemble, where each night a new superhero is created from audience suggestions and shenanigans ensue. Framed as a focus group session for a new blockbuster movie, the audience was encouraged to cheer for their favourite ideas, even if our laser noises were dismissed as sounding ‘somewhere between a cat and a dentist’s drill’.

So what new superhero stepped forward to claim the stage? Matthew McDreamy Tomlinson, whose powers originate in a scientific experiment that he hoped would help him pay off his student loan. And his power is this: every hour, on the hour, he dreams for eight minutes about ferrets.

Of course, the rest of the run will feature entirely different superheroes (the audience were encouraged to return to ‘see if we’re lying about the improvisation’); maybe some of those stories will follow a more traditional narrative structure. We, however, were presented with an entirely bizarre series of events that somehow resolved themselves into a complex Inception-style plot: dreams within dreams, ferrets within ferrets, and a profound commentary on the power of receptionists…

The Impronauts all showed impressive ability to think on their feet and come up with wacky ideas, but at times the acting was unconvincing. This added to the humour in places, but it also made ‘Winston’ stand out: the most convincing acting of the night definitely belonged to the hired muscle sent to capture the Tomlinsons before they learned to use their ferret-based powers. 

Some of the most surreal moments were also my favourites. Dialogue like: “I’m a ferret in a suit.” “You look quite dapper, well done.” And then there was the revelation that Mrs Tomlinson’s fear of ferrets and claim that they were the bane of her existence actually originated from her childhood and a misspelling: they were instead the Bane of her existence, since she was raised by a ferret in a mask.

I have a great deal of respect for those who can improvise. That they manage to produce something even vaguely coherent on the spot would be good enough, and that it was genuinely funny was a bonus. A shout out must go to the pianist, who kept playing throughout the show, and to the lighting team, who surely had to improvise at least as much as the actors.

And I will leave you with a quote that sums up the evening: “I’ve seen a lot of things… mostly ferrets.”