A night of improvised hilarity from an award winning team.
Improvisation is a funny thing- or it should be! Most people will have seen the kind of games played on shows like “Whose line is it anyway?” and just how hilarious they can be. And of course on Television they can always cut out the bits that don't work.
That's not possible with a live show so its a good job that the Maydays improvisation team is up to the challenge.
In “Argus- the Musical” they apply their talents to cuttings and clips from Saturday's Argus. The audience suggestions are picked out of a hat and without further ado the team launch into a series of sketches …
Just to warm us up our Master of Ceremonies John Cremer asks a couple in the audience how they first met and Jason Blackwater and Katy Schutte act out for us their version of the meeting. It's a great start to the night and an indication of the quality on offer.
As is the nature with Impro shows there are high points and low points but the highs definitely out number the lows and the audience respond with plenty of belly laughs. There is some good engagement and playing off with the audience and that helps to keep the atmosphere light and easy.
The concept of the show, the way its put together and the professionalism of the performances mean this show gets 3 stars straight off the bat. What earns the 4th star for me is the sheer talent of the performers.
Joe Samuel on Keyboards provides the essential musical accompaniment to the songs so smoothly you forget he's making it up.
Rebecca MacMillan, running the lights for this show, knows when its time to finish a scene- (an important if overlooked skill!)
Jenny Rowe excels at the one liners that bring a sketch to a satisfying conclusion.
John Cremer creates, intense, strong characters.
Jason Blackwater combines a fantastic singing voice with great stage presence
and Lucy Schutte is consistently on top form: funny, clever and quick, often saving the scene when others are floundering.
There are a couple of things I would like to see that would make this a 5 star show.
While the Argus cuttings are used as a starting point the sketches that follow have very little to do with the news story- though they might pick up on a simple theme. Of course not you might say, they're making it up! Give them a break! Well maybe, but I think with improvisation once you have the basics in place and you reach a certain level of skill then it's appropriate to raise the bar. I think it would be possible to incorporate more of the characters and incidents in the news stories into the subsequent sketches- even if that might involve a little more on-stage direction. The subsequent audience satisfaction would be worth it.
The performers are all very skilled at what they do but sometimes they work against each other. There were a couple of moments where one character was locked into their view of what was happening on stage and failed to pick up, or let go enough to allow the other characters in. There was some “blocking” where a suggestion or move by one team member was refused or ignored by another and there were a couple of points that could have used a “break-state” to get unstuck- like Raymond Chandler said, when he got stuck with a story he would just have a man enter with a gun! Keith Johnstone suggests the good old fashioned “Oh my god, what's that!” (pointing off stage)
Improvisation is a challenging game and slip ups and mistakes are part of the fun but I did feel that the confidence of a couple of the performers slipped as the evening went on and I wondered what was behind that.
Having said that, this is definitely a show I would recommend and one that I will go and see again.
Reviewed by Robin Manuell 28th June 2009