Entering the darkened theatre, I must admit I had no idea what to expect. Performing improvisation is one of my pet dramatic hates, and the possibility of excruciating silences and cringeworthy sketches were what I feared. Immediately as the lights went up however, my fears were happily proven to be unfounded, as the talented actors of UoN’s Improv Society created a comic show full of laughs that should make director, Gareth Hughes a very proud man.

The show begins with each actor stepping into a spotlight centre stage and improvising a short monologue. From the comic to the evil, this introduction, to a backdrop of the other actors creating a beat-box style chorus of sounds, moved seamlessly into a series of improvised sketches and improvisations.

”When the scene was tending towards going slightly off course, the other actors quickly realised this and jumped in to alter the scene somewhat, or to begin a completely new scenario.”

One of the most striking things about this performance was the fact that a variety of characters popped up in different sketches and their stories progressed throughout the course of the show. From Jenny Danaher’s sexually frustrated fairy-tale princess with a shitty (quite literally) troupe of woodland creatures, to Jack Ellis’ Igor, whose evil master, Lucy Hallam, eventually fell in love with his grotesque charm, the characters were all believable and very very funny.

When the scene was tending towards going slightly off course, the other actors quickly realised this and jumped in to alter the scene somewhat, or to begin a completely new scenario. This was a technique that kept the show fresh, funny and fast-paced throughout.

”The whole production was fully improvised and altered every time the show was performed.”

There was not a weak link within the cast of six, each performer giving convincing performances. From the incredibly evil villain, capturing spies and killing sharks, played by Sam Marshall, to the comic genius of Mitchell Masterson, who managed to portray both a small child pissed off at his sister, and a nonchalant Fairy Godfather with ease. Philippa Stazicker as an increasingly worried acupuncture patient/victim also proved her improvisational skill.

Speaking to the performers afterwards, I found it hard to believe that they did not know beforehand what they were about to perform – the performances were that good! They confirmed that apart from a vague idea of making noises at the beginning of the piece, the whole production was indeed fully improvised and altered every time the show was performed.

When the Lights Come Up could be performed again tomorrow and be completely different”

Indeed, I have just read our past review of When the Lights Come Up, published in February. What is astounding is just how different the show has become. Whilst the actors and director stay the same, it is safe to say that this show is constantly evolving and never the same twice. When the Lights Come Up could be performed again tomorrow and be completely different, and a run at the Edinburgh Fringe will make the show even stronger and more varied than it already is. Expect big things from this group of performers!

8/10 – Excellent, highly enjoyable

Amy Wilcockson

Image courtesy of Nottingham New Theatre

STUFF is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Wednesday 15th June. For more information and to book tickets, see here.

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