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The Improverts
Published on Tuesday, 21 August 2012
4

4 stars

Bedlam Theatre (venue website)
Comedy
3-11, 13-18, 20-25 Aug, 12:30am-1:30am
Reviewed by M H Allner

 Recommended for age 16+ only.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

As you walk down George IV Bridge, it’s hard to miss the spindling spires and bright red door that make the Bedlam Theatre so iconic. Even behind scaffolding and artistically positioned banners, the constant buzz of a busy Bedlam is impossible to ignore, and even more so are their semi-permanent residents: The Improverts. Unmissable and a staple part of the Fringe, this Edinburgh University-based troupe of comics is a symbol of the comedy scene in the city.

The way it works is simple. All young, dynamic and reasonably good-looking, a number of orange-clad Improverts (usually five) emerge on stage for each show, to take on the challenges of audience suggestion and pre-considered games. Those games typically include the likes of ‘The Alphabet Game’, where two players have to have a conversation with each new sentence beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. Or ‘Freeze’ where the scene must change, and so must one player, every time the word ‘Freeze’ is called out

These games are as original as their titles – but the slickness, spontaneity and genuine thrill that players seem to feel during their fast-paced, tricky-to-devise sketches only enhances the hilarity. In fact, those three qualities make The Improverts a cut above many other improvisational comedy shows. The slow torture that can occur when ‘Alphabet’ or ‘Two Headed Expert’ are being attempted by less sophisticated companies can lead to the awkward, ominous silence comics have nightmares about.

That never happens in the Bedlam Theatre. Whilst there’s a lot of ‘give us a suggestion for a location ... a mundane job... an unusual household chore’ – pretty banal by all standards – they make each instance unique.  Comparing them to shows such as Whose Line is it Anyway can almost be considered lazy – they’re very much of a calibre unto their own. They are better at what they set out to do than others. Recognition must also go to the technical team whose equally quick brilliance makes the show spectacular. Music, lighting, sound effects – they have to be swifter than their front men, interpreting the themes ahead of everyone and moving with the audience. Punctuating every nuance of each game, their lightning-fast reflexes should be the envy of Fringe venues across town.

Of course, there is an element of sameness despite the improvisational aspect of the show – I’ve been numerous times over the years spent living in the city, and can honestly say that some things never change even as the performers do. Still, I have never left without a satisfying ache in my sides from too much laughter and too little air.

So if you’re up for a night of hilarity, prepare your prompts, ready your loudest and most suggestive voice and role on up through the Big Red Doors of Bedlam. An energetic, must-see for any and all who like to laugh.

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

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