For me there were quite a few things wrong with the 80s: Thatcherism, the threat of nuclear destruction, ra-ra skirts, Hue & Cry… but there was one thing that particularly set my teeth on edge and that was ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?‘. It all seemed a bit smug and far too pleased with itself so as a result I’ve tended to avoid anything with improvisation, improv, impro etc. in the title. However – after some hasty rescheduling due to cancelled/overscribed/late running shows I stumbled across Impromptu Shakespeare in what I think is a new venue for the Free Fringe (The King James Hotel – nice sized room, air-conditioned – luxury!)
As for the show itself – the five-strong troupe isn’t all peachy-keen-home-counties-drama-school-grad types but has a bit of a mix of ages with one member a dead ringer for Helen Mirren. As for gender there is only one bloke but it’s a neat subverting of Willy’s day with women playing men.
The idea is that audience members get handed ping-pong balls – upon which various situations or objects from Shakespeare’s plays are writ – as they enter, they are invited to chuck them at the stage and the ones caught form the base of the improvisation which has to be done in the Shakespearean style.
Aye there’s the rub! (see what I did there?) As some of the cast adhere to the pentameter or whatever more than others. I believe I caught the first show in the run and the rough structure that day was about a duel, a ring, a tapestry and a bastard child so cue a hilarious childbirth scene. You absolutely couldn’t fault the energy, enthusiasm and sheer talent of everyone involved.
I’d say perfect for perhaps trying to drum some Shakespeare into the heads of disaffected kids because even though it’s not strictly Shakespeare it serves well as a kind of dumb-show type of introduction. That aside – it is tremendous good fun so forget Benny Cumberbatch and get yourself to the King James!
(review for 7 Aug show)