The concept is absolutely terrifying and would fill even some of the most established actors with fear and dread. Yet, a team of six actors, three musicians and a man on improvised tech called Giles, turn up to their theatre venue in Edinburgh each day not knowing what they will perform for the next hour.
No Shoes Theatre, which returns to the Edinburgh fringe for its third year with The Improvised Musical is on to a winner, and judging from another sell out year it has got its model right to ensure happy audiences.
As we file in, the musicians are playing, the cast jumping around greeting people and asking if we have any props to lend to their production… I don’t think anyone could have thought that two sticks of garlic bread would be presented to them but nevertheless they went on the pile of random items and were indeed used.
A quick introduction to how the concept works we spend five minutes seeking suggestions for a song title, the title of the show and also issuing cards to members of the audience who can at any point request a song, add another character to the scene, or shout flashback to gain a bit more story to the scene that unfolds.
The whole thing has the potential to be a complete disaster but, incredibly, the venue shakes with laughter on several occasions and smiles beam in admiration for a team of six people who not only know each other’s performance so well but also manage to present several songs in harmony and know exactly when to end. Credit must be given to the outstanding talents of musical director Gavin Whitworth who dutifully sits behind the keyboard adding sound effects and nuances to the performance as well as picking the right musical genre to complement the tone of each improvised scene – as well as leading a bass player and drummer.
You can’t help but sit and think, how are they doing this? The simple answer is practice. Performances by the cast of six, with mentions to the delightful Nic Lamont and Scott Gilmour, come not only from genuine comic talent and timing but also from the time invested in knowing exactly what the other is thinking and how to improvise around what the other can present.
Director Michael Slater, who also performs in the six person troope, presents an exciting show that is literally completely different each performance. I have no shame in saying that I now have this firmly stapled into my itinerary each year.
For those who couldn’t make Edinburgh, talks are FINALLY underway to organise some performances in London, and I really can’t wait.
Clever, inventive, feel-good theatre, with a group of very talented individuals.
I want a go!