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The Noise Next Door - Their Finest Hour
Published on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

3 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
3-9, 11-16, 18-29 Aug, 4:30pm-5:30pm
Reviewed by Liv Watson

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Who would be your perfect partner? This is the question put to the audience by The Noise Next Door, and the resounding answer from the audience is… an umbrella salesman who is an avid Shania Twain fan, possesses claws, wiggly eyebrows, and, can’t you guess? A lingering smell of Gorgonzola.

Given the quality of the responses that this lively quintet is dealt, they would be forgiven for making the occasional slip-up. Perhaps inevitably with improv, there are flat points once or twice, but interestingly it’s when they are given toilet humour or sexual references to play with that this tends to happen. On the other hand, an improvised (and high tempo) song about a kleptomaniac girlfriend? Easy. The group are nonetheless impressive, and should be applauded for attempting for the most part to steer clear of crudity (though not of relentless punning).

Their energy is infectious, and since audience participation is key, they do well to strike an upbeat chord the moment the audience walks in – with puppets cracking jokes in the background, and a personalised welcome accompanied by lively guitar playing. The show frequently takes some rather unexpected twists and turns – take the character who attempts to seek help for his friend (who is stuck to a harpsichord) by running first and foremost to Ann Summers. However, the personal touch displayed the start of the set is maintained, and when jokes flop, the charisma and occasional lapse into giggles of the performers guarantee that the audience is firmly on their side.

The five work well together as a team, but at the same time allow one of their number – Tom Houghton – to quietly step into the role of on-stage director. This allows their slip-ups to become part of the show, and the entire performance is reminiscent of a ramshackle dress rehearsal, with performers seemingly forgetting lines, skipping scenes, and generally wreaking havoc to the delight of a highly engaged audience.

The Noise Next Door are slick, adaptable and energetic but – though they are obviously good at what they do – the show may not leave a lasting impression on improv veterans.  Those in the audience laughing the loudest tended to be groups of teenagers, particularly those who had been selected as ‘volunteers’ or provided material for the group to improvise with. That said, the show is an interactive one: if you refuse to become actively involved in it, then it will be less enjoyable as a result. Able to find comedy in the most surprising of places, it’s worth going to see The Noise Next Door simply to find out what can be wrung from even the wackiest of your suggestions.

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