Review: Once Upon A Time: An Improvised Fairy Tale

Martha Fromson 14 May 2013

Once Upon A Time: An Improvised Fairy Tale

Keynes Hall, King’s College, Tues 14th- Wed 15th May, 8pm

This musical was, as you would guess from the title, totally improvised and its plot was vaguely centred on a village dance-off through which the shoe-making villagers, in league with some rainbow cows, aimed to bring down the tyrannical disco king. However, the plot was utterly incoherent, with random prophecies and other assorted plot devices appearing and disappearing at will. For example, ‘one of legend’ was proclaimed at one point, but never materialised again. Likewise, a plot by the cows to retake the kingdom stolen from then was raised at some point, before disappearing out of sight.

However, despite its total incoherence and absurdity this show was hysterically funny, keeping the audience in fits of laughter. The mixture of ridiculous dances, songs, and jokes was fantastic. Furthermore, the actors’ attempts to keep up with the bizarre plot twists and their willingness to take on any roles, from shoemakers to disco trees, were brilliant and I can only commend their creativity and quick thinking. The speed and ingenuity with which they managed to come up with songs, speeches and dialogue had the audience captivated, as did the sheer absurdity of their inventions. My personal favourite, in terms of utter nonsensicality, was a rainbow clock/shoe, which was coveted because it could reveal anyone’s sexuality.

Furthermore, the cast engaged really well with the audience, with the compere beginning the show by getting the audience to make silly and suggestive noises and urging them to compete over who could be louder. This created rapport between the cast and the audience and also set a suitably daft tone for the evening, ensuring no-one was feeling in an overly sensible or dignified.

The actors were all enthusiastic, willing to make fools of themselves and improvise furiously. They had excellent comic timing and worked well together as a group. The compere was especially good, keeping the show lively by announcing songs, flashbacks and prophecies, which the cast willingly delivered. The slightly questionable singing at times was more than made up for by the cast’s fantastic energy. It was obvious that the actors were enjoying themselves as much as the audience and were equally unsure of where the play was going. Watching the actors compete to outdo each other with ridiculous plot-twists and force each other into dance performances was a source of amusement in itself.

Once Upon a Time is utterly incomprehensible but completely hilarious. It is the perfect cheerful pick me-up to help you get through exam term!

Martha Fromson