Upstairs Downton is a jolly jaunt of a parody of well-known TV period drama, which delivers everything you want from free Fringe improvised comedy—a convoluted plot-line, a troupe of quick thinking actors, and plenty of silliness thrown in.
Even those who aren’t fans of Downton will enjoy the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of period-drama TV tropes, which today includes two rival valets, one with honest intentions to serve his master, and the other with sinister ambitions to rise to the power of “super-valet”. Okay, so maybe not your standard fare for weekend TV viewing, but certainly the stuff of good improv.
As far as audience participation goes, Upstairs Downton does it remarkably well: any audience participation is entirely communal. Simon Lukacs, doubling as our heroic valet John Smith and fictional eccentric writer-director, handles the not overly-original audience suggestions (how do you think he got the name John Smith?), with the kind of good humour and imagination that marks out the best improvised comedy.
The day’s drama unfolds as the two rival valets are pitted against each other, culminating in one of those scenes surely most improv comedians dread, where two key characters come face to face, but they’re both being played by the same actor. Jonah Fazel is fantastic as both bed-ridden elderly Lord of the Manor and the evil valet, closing the show with a brilliant one-man stand-off.
With murder plots, mysterious family connections, over 500 John Smiths, and a good bucketful of itching powder, Upstairs Downton delivers a wonderfully silly hour of lunchtime entertainment.