Ben van der Velde uses his quick wit to craft a unique and funny story starring, well, you – or at least some of the members of his audience. His skill at telling tales and finding the humour in situations makes this an unusual and enjoyable show.
As Ben welcomes us and amiably begins to ask questions, we learn that there are a few people here from Northern Ireland; there’s a philosophy student, a psychology one… and soon the laughter comes. The show flows seamlessly from these introductions, initially to simple callbacks, and then to more and more outlandish suggestions – casting the audience members as heroes, villains and sidekicks in the fabled tale that he skilfully weaves.
As ever with improv based on audience suggestions, much depends on who is there. To his credit, when faced with an eleven-year-old who liked dance and didn’t understand references to famous psychologists, Ben didn’t miss a beat – describing Freud as a sensual tango where, instead of his partner, he was thinking of his mother. But my favourite explanation was Zena, Warrior Princess, as a six-foot-tall woman with a broadsword doing the haka. What an image!
There was some awkwardness and and anxiety as – not as fast as some of the audience, but much to our relief – van der Velde picked up on the tragic history of one particular audience member. He didn’t delve too deep, although he did refer to it more directly than was necessarily comfortable. Similarly, some references were somewhat inappropriate: I personally have no love of bombing jokes when it’s known that much of the audience is Irish.
Despite some challenges, van der Velde kept good control of the crowd, and for the most part read the room well. He kept everyone’s attention and with his lighthearted jovial manner, drew out interesting tidbits to use. By cleverly crafting callbacks and running wildly with otherwise innocuous information, he creates in-jokes with the audience and has everyone laughing. This is a comedic experience and an entertaining collaborative tale, that draws all of the viewers into its fantasy world.