Sunday, 24 August 2008

Showstoppers: An Improvised Musical, A Brilliant Success

'Showstoppers: An Improvised Musical'
Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Considering myself a critic who, though still young, is particularly hard to impress, I sceptically handed over my ticket and settled into an Edinburgh University Lecture Theatre. After all, £3 isnt too large a sum to waste.

A fake phone call later, I was enthralled. After audience participation compiled an intreiging list of themes, settings and styles, the team of six actors trouped into action, aided by their 'writer' to stage right. Opening with a Rogers&Hammerstine-esque scene on the side of Mount Vesuvius, the team brilliantly and creatively worked their way musically and in dialogue through a story of revolution, ending in a James Blunt style finale in the face of the famous historic eruption. Particularly noteworthy was the use of props and costume, which was hardly any. The set consisted of two moveable crates, and the costumes largely of scarves and hats in red over outfits of black. Simple, but VERY effective.

I know what you are thinking, because I thought the same. How could the troupe, good actors as they may well be, improvise a musical on the spot depending on what the audience fancy? I have no answers for you. Refusing to believe I would enjoy myself, I spent the first twenty minutes of the show trying to figure out some sort of system behind their madness, but in the face of sheer improvisation experience, I simply had to render myself a fan and sit back and laugh!

My personal favourite song in the whole show, was when one of the two female peasants, a bread seller, was directed by the off-stage writer to perform a song in the style of Andrew Lloyd-Webber about Olives and Bread. She simply topped the bill, her brain working so fast you could almost see the steam, coming up with lines like 'they said bread would make you fatter, so I invented ciabatta!'. Even a botched key change within her song was quickly put to rights when the writer cleverly declared it to have been his mistake, and took it out of the show.

If anyone gets the chance to see this show in the dying days of Edinburgh Fringe 2008, then I would recommend it above any others I saw. If not, then I for one am hoping they return next year to amaze and thoroughly entertain an audience!

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