There is no shortage of improv groups vying for the hard-earned of the Fringe punter, all offering the fleeting joys of spontaneous comedy, but the youthful swagger of the University of Birmingham’s Watch This Improv Troupe is well worth the outlay.
The six young performers all subscribe to the opportunities for theatricality that improv offers. Right from the opening introduction they bound into each scenario with the energy and frankly insane enthusiasm of Butlins redcoats at an evangelical church. There’s initially a small concern that they may be attempting to coast through their hour on a wave of sugar rush energy. Thankfully once the show begins proper their talent soon shines through.
Tonight’s show is a fantasy epic about time travelling fairies set in a Wetherspoons and the sextet are have soon established a central tale about a pair of drunk fairies offered the chance to travel back to the court of King Arthur, where their magical powers will be more appreciated.
Each member of the troupe has a gift for wringing out the humour in each scene, and crucially has seems to have an innate sense of when to bring introduce a judicious edit, or when to rein in the absurdity when it threatens to get too silly. This means that the show flows like a full, coherent story that follows the three act structure of a film, rather than a series of comic vignettes held together with a tenuous nod towards narrative. Perhaps counter-intuitively for a form beloved for its lack of rules, it’s this maturity and sense of restraint that makes it work.
Everyone brings something valuable to the table, but perhaps the standout is the versatile Tai Oshodi, who impresses as both a booming, stentorian King Arthur and a loping, Marty Feldman-like pixie assistant. Also deserving special mention is Aron Sood on keyboards, providing a perky, unobtrusive musical backdrop that comes into its own when an audience member presses one of the special buzzers that are handed out at the beginning and the show erupts into a song-and-dance number. The other members, Alex Wilcox, Jade Corbett, Elliott McDowell, Hannah Clay and Will Smith are by no means slouches either, with the standard of acting high across the board.
Remarkably polished for a student troupe, Improvabunga! is highly enjoyable long form improv performed with flair and demented energy.