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The Maydays present: The Fringe Show
Published on Saturday, 26 May 2012
5

5 stars

Komedia Studio (venue website)
Comedy
4-5, 18, 25 May, 9:00pm-10:30pm; 26 May, 6:30pm-8:00pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.

Does improv have to be funny? There are a lot of other emotions - pathos, despair, disappointment, longing, spiritual emptiness, a sense that somewhere in the past your life has taken a wrong turn and if only you could get back to that moment everything would be okay - those are just a few that spring to mind. It takes a very brave group of performers to allow a story to unfold without a sense of where its unfolding to, and just let it go, sometimes, into very dark territory. The Maydays are brave.

Firstly, this is a great show for anyone who hasn’t really seen much of the Fringe. You get a real sense of the scope of the types of things you’ve missed over the last few weeks. Before it begins, audience members are given sections from the Fringe programme and asked to rip out anything that sounds interesting. The performers then read out the selected shows and act out what they think they might be about.  

It’s very much a show of two halves. The first half is standard fare quick-fire improv. The second, more interesting, half takes one idea and spins it out into a long-form performance. It’s this part I found strangely mesmerising, and they went down some very surprising avenues. They weren’t worried about making us laugh; what they wanted was to make us feel. This is far harder.  

The starting point for our longer piece was Faulty Towers the Dining Experience. What they spun out of this one idea was just fascinating. I’m a big football fan, and what I like about football is the idea that something magically might happen out of nothing at any moment. The same could be said for this show.

The Maydays have been going since 2001, and they are a group in full confidence. If something wasn’t working, they were able to adjust out of it and pick up the things that were. What was really impressive was not how they were able to make things up on the go, but how they were able to give the story an arc and momentum. This is not easy.    

All the performers were fantastic, but it's the music which really raised the level of the show. Joe Samuel on the piano is superb. He is able to both cue the performers into various directions, and also pick up where they’re going. One of my highlights was towards the end of the first half, when they broke into a song about tempting yoga devotees with pizza. It seemed so natural - it grew out of the scene - a lovely moment, and what’s both great and sad about improv is how a moment can bloom and just drift away.    

I can’t recommend this show enough. Sometimes inspired, always great, occasional laceratingly funny, and at times deeply affecting.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.