Note: This review is from the 2019 Fringe

Back at the Fringe with their darkly comedic improv wickedness, The Maydays deliver more of what they do best. Featuring on-the-spot thinking at its most twisted and slick, Happily Never After is one of the surest bets for entertainment at the festival.

Unlike a lot of improv, which is fuelled from multiple audience suggestions, the Maydays feed off just a singular idea, grinding it down all the way to the bones. These suggestions are normally occupations – things that can be acted out quite obviously, but which each pose their own unique challenges. The ideas that they roll with can range from the mundane to the more unique, but every time the performers manage to mutate them into gothic, theatrical wonders. Watching their imagination unfurl on the stage is hugely satisfying.

The whole troupe are capable performers. Their skill at what they do is matched by an acute awareness of their co-stars, and they bounce off one another so well you almost forget it’s all improvised. It works so well because every member of The Maydays knows the kinds of characters that they can pull off convincingly, and stick broadly to them. They have no need to change a winning recipe, and this particular potion goes down nicely with its crowd.

Their black and white attire channels the Tim Burton and Lemony Snicket inspired vibe they are aiming for, but also conjures more than a morsel of mime. All that’s missing is the chalk white face paint, which actually would not feel out of place. The Maydays get quite physical with their performances, taking on the personas of ‘inanimate’ objects and acting out routines in the complete absence of handheld props. They occasionally recognise the weirdness, but it’s this lack of sincerity that keeps the audience on board. This is a playful show that revels in its own ridicule, and it makes for some seriously good entertainment.

Happily Never After might fall under the gothic label, but its tongue-in-cheek approach and good humour make these haunted histrionics accessible to anyone who likes a refined improv experience. It is, for all intents and purposes, frighteningly wonderful.