By Ralph Wainer
In hindsight, I think I would have paid to see this free performance. ShellShock!’s Another Night of Improvised Comedy was an hilarious intimate session of good old-fashioned improvisation and verbal fun and games.
The seven improvisers were top-class, funny in distinctive ways and definitely worked together as a solid team. No improviser seemed to outshine another member of this elite group. In a two hour long session, the actors gave a fantastic rendition of Les Misérables, rescued a beached whale, had an interview with an expert on Hadrian’s Wall, and hosted a party with Oscar Wilde and a poor guy who never learnt to walk.
There was a scene where an actor tried to find excuses for not turning up late to lecture. The excuse was something to do with a plague of frogs and a Back to the Future Hoverboard. In another scene, a talented duo tried to pilot a helicopter. Another duo, stranded on a bird-sanctuary, tried to save themselves from the perilous avian threat.
One of the most difficult games played was when the actors had to re-enact a scene about a beached whale with fewer and fewer characters on stage. Another personal favourite is when two of the performers had to act a scene (basically arguing about carrots) in reverse or ‘rewind-mode’. Two lucky members of the audience had some physical involvement in the show as they came on stage and handled two actors like human puppets. These two audience members would direct what the bodies of the actors would do while the actors could only independently use their voices.
Comparing ShellShock! with previous improv-shows I’ve seen, I’d recommend a mini-game involving music which the audience chooses from a popular playlist. I noted how very few ‘bad words’ were used during the performance. This was definitely a positive sign that the improvisers knew how to handle a crowd well.
However, part of the charm of improvisation is the lack of props: the only props being used in this show were a scarf, a bag-liner, and a fez (oh… and a chair from the audience, which someone also impersonated). Also, no lighting effects were used, which I found great. Although challenging, I believe this talented cast of seven could even perform an entire improvised play from start to finish in which the audience decides the cast and genre.
All in all it was an excellent show! ShellShock! also runs workshops on improvised comedy that you can join and I’m sure they are all great fun.
ShellShock! will be performing again in a fortnight, and I highly recommend that you see the next performance. If you are exceptionally busy with work, this night of improvised comedy will do you a whole lot of good. You really get involved, you forget that you are watching a play, and simply laugh at other people having fun.