Improv Society’s new show When The Lights Come Up is centred around the idea that as soon as the performers enter the stage, anything could happen. With this mind, and the fact that improvisation can either be a hit or a miss, I was both anxious and excited to see the show. Yet each of the performers managed to use their witty quick-thinking to keep the comedy flowing throughout each scene, in a show that didn’t fail to entertain the audience and keep us laughing throughout.

When the lights indeed came up, each performer delivered a quick monologue to the audience before banding together to start a collection of improvised scenes, from two squabbling children struggling to come to terms with the fact that their mummies now loved each other, to Barbie advising Polly Pocket that she needed to completely change her appearance to become popular. The tongue-in-cheek humour was able to gently touch upon real societal issues whilst remaining light-hearted.

Each of the performers took it in turns to enter the space and start an improvised scene, while other performers stood along the stage and freely joined in, changing the scenes whenever they felt fit. The performer’s timing when ending each scene was impeccable, as the scenes would build to a crescendo of laughter from the audience. Each time the pace of the scene dropped slightly, another performer stepped in and steered the scene in a new direction, such as Jennifer Danaher shouting out that Barbie had her arm ripped off by a child, forcing Lucy Hallam to feign losing her arm and Philippa Stazicker to comfort the now imperfect Barbie doll.

“The performer’s timing when ending each scene was impeccable, as the scenes would build to a crescendo of laughter from the audience”

Certain characters reappeared throughout the show such as Ned, played by Mitchell Masterson, the less than adequate gang member who struggles to be threatening, collapsing to the floor at the sight of a gun. Another favourite was the vegan, played by Jack Ellis, who worked in McDonald’s and couldn’t refrain from throwing Big Macs at the customers in an act of defiance. These particular performers’ comic timing created unique in-jokes with the audience that kept the scenes fresh but familiar.

Stand out scenes included the gentleman’s club, where Jennifer Danaher struggled to convince the men that she was just an easy-going, eager misogynist desperate to be one of the boys. As well as the rehabilitation centre for toys with members such as Ken, played by Sam Marshall, who was addicted to Barbie and the Jack in the box, played by Marshall Masterson, who just enjoyed laughing at the other toys’ problems.

“‘When the Lights Come Up’ is a highly enjoyable show, which showcases great improvisational talent”

The most exciting thing about the show is the fact that it’s all improvised, and it’s a testament to the performers’ abilities and the creative vision of director Gareth Hughes that the audience forgets the scenes are spontaneous, as the back-and-forth, quick witted lines are slick and a pleasure to watch.

The production could have benefited from the performers not being afraid to pause and wait for the audience’s laughter to die down, rather than trying to continue their lines over the (admittedly positive) response, as this meant some of their lines were lost.

When the Lights Come Up is a highly enjoyable show, which showcases great improvisational talent. With lighthearted and funny scenes, the audience were laughing and applauding throughout the show’s entirety.


Daniella Finch

‘When The Lights Come Up’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 13th February. For more information see here.

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