first night

Shellshock! Returners' Show 2015/16

Alena Kopecna is left positively shellshocked after a night of improvised comedy.

In need of a good recipe for a sushi pie? Well, fear not. Because Shellshock! were back from their successful Edinburgh run for one night only to share their speciality menu and to prove that they are Fringe-worthy. Based on suggestions from audience members, we were in for an hour filled with improvised comedy sketches and, quite frankly, some bizarre scenes. Improvised comedy is a risky business, but it comes with great rewards if successfully executed, as was indeed the case in the DSU's Kingsgate Room yesterday evening.

Before the show even began, the six actors were extremely friendly and created a relaxed atmosphere for the audience. And they must be commended for doing so, given that the audience are vital to the show’s success. At the start of each sketch, an actor would outline its basic principle, and once it had begun they would tactfully drive the scene forward, which prevented sketches from becoming too slow-paced, awkward or boring. There was also a nice balance of classic improv games with more inventive pieces, so as to ensure that the audience were entertained for the duration of the show.

Having the ability to improvise is, quite obviously, an essential skill as an improvised comedy actor. However, it is teamwork which makes up a good improvised show. And this is where Shellshock! really showcased their strength as a performing unit. They are a well-coordinated group and were always ready to step in should another actor be in need. This group camaraderie was particularly noticeable as the actors enacted a somewhat complex scene featuring a murderous midwife in a zoo who used an elephant to kill her victims. This is just an example of a sketch that stemmed from the audience's suggestions and, for the most part, they ended up being hilariously ridiculous (or ridiculously hilarious for that matter).

Despite their slow start, Shellshock! grew in confidence as the show progressed, and their comedy became gradually more and more imaginative as they continued to interact with the audience. The brave souls who volunteered to participate onstage were treated with care, and the scenes with their involvement were actually some of the most comedic. All in all, whether it was enjoying a sushi pie in a Narnia-themed restaurant or finding myself amongst a group of mute detectives, Shellshock! delivered a funny and engaging show which made my typically gloomy Durham evening a little bit brighter.

28 October 2016

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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