first night

Durham Improvised Musical: Improv All the Way

DIM give us ray of sunshine during the cold winter nights. Rebecca Flynn reviews...

 At this time of year warmth, laughter and music are a welcome escape from the cold Durham wind and impending deadlines. If you seek these small pleasures too, I strongly recommend Durham Improvised Musical’s Improv All The Way. The setting is simple – a row of chairs and a piano – yet these and the fact that each of the six actors wears a different colour allows any plot to be enacted and the actors to play multiple roles. As tomorrow’s performance will be entirely different because the audience decides the musical’s name, setting and main musical number, I will use costume colour to identify the actors and characters.

 The beginning audience participation proved extremely comic, with heckles being thrown at Joe Leather (yellow) such as suggestions that the song should be entitled ‘I didn’t bother to iron my shirt’ and the musical named ‘I don’t own an ironing board.’ Despite these excellent suggestions, the title chosen was ‘Get off my Chest’ which became a motif cleverly employed by all the actors. Dauntingly, the main number selected was ‘Purple makes me hard’. Unsurprisingly this proved extremely funny with comic initiative from Paul Moss who – as purple - danced in the background.

The setting of the musical was Disneyland which sparked an interesting plot where the villain (Sarah Peters in pink) stole pretty children to eat due to a genie (Guy Hughes in blue) refusing to love her, although he fathered her child (Max Spence in red) who was simultaneously searching Disneyland for her. This seems absurd when written down but proved utterly engaging, particularly because of the sub-plot between the Genie (Hughes) and Carlos, a pop corn seller (Leather). The chemistry between these two was undeniable and they really stood out even in scenes of simultaneous tableaux.

The musical proved to be hilarious, but unfortunately the actors found themselves equally as amusing as the audience found them which proved distracting at times. There were also points where Peters slipped out of her villainous accent and tone. Nonetheless, the singing was of a high standard overall (Nat Goodwin in green had a particularly nice tone) with an impressive medley in the middle where all actors remembered the lyrics from their previous numbers. Seth Miall, the pianist, kept his composure throughout and adjusted well to the spontaneity of the singers.

There were points where the lyrics proved monotonous but this is understandable and typical of musical numbers. The actors employed a gentle irony when struggling on the spot to make a lyric which was effective. There were no moments of silence; no obvious sign of an actor under pressure. Slips were turned into comic motifs such as when Spence‘s female character was mistakenly referred to as ‘he’ by Leather, an error that was carried on throughout as a comic explanation for his rejection by his mother.

 The boys did steal the show, but with improvisation someone has to take the initiative and overall the actors were superb comics, singers and dancers. I am sure many audience members from Friday’s performance will be seeing the show again on Saturday, both because it will be completely different to ‘Get off my Chest’ but also because of the skill showed by this cast.

* * * *

Rebecca Flynn


10 December 2011

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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