Improv, theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall, venue 53, 22.20 until 29th August.
Hailing from York, The Shambles improvisation troupe are fast becoming a regular sight at the Fringe and for good reason. Through a series of Whose Line Is It Anyway?-esque games, the performers adopted a multitude of absurd personas in ludicrous situations based on the “best and weirdest” audience suggestions, constituting a fast-paced but not quite anarchic spectacle. With the aid of their charismatic compere, easily sieving through the hecklers to hand pick the better suggestions, it felt like the show was in safe hands.
This group are as rehearsed as improvisers can be. The cast were clearly comfortable with their assigned suggestions, and with each other, displaying a charming camaraderie. The Shambles are a young group, and it’s refreshing to see them not taking their show too seriously. With practiced ease, it felt like we were all being let in to an in-joke, becoming part of their little gang for an hour.
But, this is where there some issues with the show – it just wasn’t all that shambolic. It’s wonderful to see comfortable performers, but it just didn’t feel like they were being challenged, like there was any danger to it. Some of the jokes failed to land, and the better gags were generally from the more rehearsed sketches. That said, the fully improvised parts were still funny (just not as hilarious) and showed glimpses of intelligent comedic wit.
That said, this is a show based largely on audience suggestions – and at a ten-thirty show, there’s no telling what a raucous Fringe audience could throw out for them. This swings both ways: from the awful (a man at the back loudly answering every call with anything related to colonoscopies); to the delightful (a suggested occupation? Dragon whisperer); and it can swing in mere moments. I have a feeling that, with The Shambles, it’s not so much what you pay for, but who you go along with.
Image: The Shambles