first night

Durham-Bangor Improvaganza

Kate Wilkinson ventures into the unpredictable world of improvised comedy.

If you are looking for a fun, light-hearted evening where you can forget about the stress of your taxing degree, then look no further than Durham’s very own improvised comedy society, ShellShock!. With no rehearsal, script or run-through, ShellShock! stays true to the spirit of improvised comedy, and watching the group perform is a truly unpredictable affair. The evening took place in St Mary’s Kenworthy Hall and had a friendly, casual atmosphere. Taking audience suggestions for timed activities, the performance took the form of Whose Line is it Anyway?. Given the importance of audience input, the small turnout was regrettable. Nevertheless, those who did attend made up for the numbers with enthusiastic suggestions and all seemed truly to enjoy themselves.

On this occasion, Durham teamed up with Bangor University’s own comedic society which I felt was a fruitful collaboration. The two groups gelled together brilliantly – they were mixed into two separate groups, with a twenty minute interval separating each performance. To their credit, I could not tell who was from either group. The standard was generally high; each performer was slick and energetic, and they proved a talented bunch. Performances from Joe Beckwith and Alison Ewins particularly stood out, each playing a plethora of characters, such as a child and her sardonic imaginary friend. From Durham, Josh Thomas was an engaging compere and kept the performances tight.

As to the content, games included ‘Pick-up lines’ in which lines previously written by audience members were randomly read out as part of a scene and ‘Film’ in which the performers revealed an impressive knowledge of the plot of Aladdin. Some of the wackiest scenarios included a convincingly mimed camel tracheostomy, volcano-surfing and extreme milk float. In this way, I was unexpectedly educated – I had never heard of a tracheostomy! Some of the references such as this were unfamiliar to me and so at times the humour became quite niche. However, the intimate atmosphere and unpredictable nature was conducive to moments of hilarity. The entire room, actors included, was in fits after an inadvertently sinister double entendre from Iain Doggart: ‘Now this is a daughter I can get behind’. There were, however, a few lapses in laughter and at times the more fantastical sketches lost direction. This said, I believe this talented group can satisfy many a comedy appetite and all left the evening in an air of good humour.

This was, quite suitably, a stand-alone event; however, keep an eye out for Shellshock! in the future. This group deserves a larger audience to perform to. You can guarantee that any individual night will be entirely different.


Kate Wilkinson



11 November 2012

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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