Improv From the Crypt

Sat 16th – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Flo Layer

at 10:54 on 20th Aug 2014

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In the Cambridge Impronauts’ blurb for their show they darkly promise that ‘if you don’t come out laughing, you won’t come out at all!’ Thankfully, I live to tell the tale but laughing certainly wasn't an activity that featured heavily throughout the evening. Improvised comedy, when delivered well, can produce some of the most ridiculously hilarious comic scenes from unlikely origins. However, the performance of Improv from the Crypt left much to be desired.

The show takes the form of long-form improvisation, as the group asked for suggestions from the audience to create an ‘evening of untold terror, laughter and music’ in order to construct a new horror story every night. This time incestuous cannibalism set in a sauna in eastern Europe was the theme of the evening, given the grandiose and sinister title ‘I want it medium not rare’. In this improvised world, we witnessed the fight of perverts against cannibals, the oh-so stale characterisation of the travelling gap yah student and an opening rap which could only be described as painful, without any rhyme or reason. To the group’s disappointment, some of the loudest laughs seemed to have resulted from the audience’s initial rowdy suggestions prior to the show rather than the show itself.

Perhaps for this troupe, the demands of long-form improv were just too high. The minor glimpses of skilfully improvised jokes (such as the continually changing statements that demanded one member to play various animals instead of humans) might have been better showcased in a fast paced show, one which was less reliant on developing the same stale ideas for a whole hour. Even the lighting - a part of improv which is usually so subtly impressive - became a bit shoddy as the cast were plunged into darkness a little too early or miles too late. However, the improvised soundtrack was well timed and consistent to the chosen gothic theme.

The show was at least skilfully manoeuvred by the group’s compere who recognised when a scene was descending into awkward and uncomfortable incoherence and promptly called for a change of direction.

To some extent it’s an excellent piece of luck that this show has been allotted an early hours of the morning slot in a large pub: at least the reasonably large audience was more than willing to shout out suggestions, laugh at regular intervals and would probably only have a hazy memory of the whole thing the following morning. Here’s hoping that Improv in the Crypt will not rear its awkwardly unfunny head from the grave again.

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Jeremy Barclay

at 11:03 on 20th Aug 2014

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Jack o’ Lanterns; torches under chins; creepy organ music. Is it Halloween already? No, it’s just another improv show promising an hour’s entertainment with nothing more than the smart-alec suggestions of a drunk audience. Cambridge Impronaut’s Improv From the Crypt, an unremarkable show with a concept less refreshing than a tall glass of sand, fails in almost every aspect of what it means to entertain a crowd.

For many people, the jury is still out on improv comedy – it tends to be an acquired taste, but I have seen enough episodes of Whose Line is it Anyway? to know just how good it can be. It requires speed, imagination and charisma, all of which were lacking from this performance. After a pretty standard but ropey opening game of locations and professions for characters in ghost stories, the compere mocked his cast from the back of the audience, claiming that these stories weren’t scary at all; that he could help them create something terrifying instead. A moment of relief fell amongst the crowd. Perhaps the lacklustre opening was all a ruse – a set up – for the creation of something spontaneously wonderful. No such luck.

Having settled on a title for the show (‘I wanted medium, not rare’, featuring incestuous cannibals), the Impronauts launched into an impromptu rap that was more ‘Rapper’s Worst Nightmare’ than ‘Rapper’s Delight’. The performers, who struggled to crowbar rhymes into their off-the-cuff lyrics, kept their hands in their pockets as they shifted around nervously on stage.

As the scenes jumped between Eastern Europe and Devon, the cast, who may as well have been selected from the punters in the bar five minutes before if their talent for story telling and improv were anything to go by, spent the entire show floundering. It was forty-five minutes of struggling. The cast struggled to be funny, a generous audience struggled to laugh for them, and I struggled to find anything good to write down in my notebook.

Perhaps the only redeeming factor of this limp-wristed improv was its compere, who was the only person in the group able to recognise when a scene desperately needed to end. He could often be funny too, but only in a self-deprecating way, pointing out reasons why that scene was boring as a way to lead clumsily into the next.

Improv From the Crypt decomposed from the very beginning, into the unrecognisable remains of an improv show. The zombie-like performance of this amateurish cast will leave you with nothing but a frown embalmed on your face.

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