From the first moment of this improvised show, you sense the presence of dear old Enid Blyton. All of the actors are dressed in suitable adventure attire – knee-length shorts, long white socks and smart tank tops. Oh, and the audience are all of a certain age!
Jonah Fazel bounces onto the stage, larger than life, and introduces the clever way the performance will unfold. There are two large dice with suggestions from the audience attached. Once rolled onto the stage, they are used as material for the story.
On this particular night I witnessed “The Exciting Adventure on Kilimanjaro Mountain”, where the one-eyed, long-legged and lazy Uncle Philip (Alex Fox) tries desperately to reclaim the deeds of the said mountain from his wife. She is the drunken Magdalena (Sally Hodgkiss), a mother of one (or is it two?) Magdalena prefers to hang out with her “gal pals”, especially Lady Cartwright (Rhiannon Vivian), drinking mojitos and creating new words that might just catch on.
As you would expect in an unscripted and completely improvised show, the story unravelled with some weird and wonderful moments. There were endless cups of tea that could be used as face-cooling agents; housekeepers that appeared as if by magic called ‘Hilda, Tilda, Gilda and Bob’; and mojitos that were worn rather than drunk.
A duet between the innocent and unmanly Timmy (James Irving) and the brave and outspoken Margarite (Amy Cooke-Hodgson) was a real highlight for me, and left me wishing there had been a few more musical numbers. But the whole Company are skilled, sharp and quick to pick up on each other's ideas, and the attention to detail was superb. Observational humour is so entertaining when used well, and the cast exploited this to the last degree – never missing an opportunity to build on the storyline together.
There were, however, a couple of things that began to grate on me as the performance went on. The accompanying pianist is also very skilled, but I'd have appreciated just a few moments of silence during the action, to allow some contrast at times. And while I know how hard it is to keep a straight face when all around you others are laughing, I found the corpsing amongst the players a tad irritating towards the end of the performance.
And speaking of endings, it seemed that the company struggled to find one. Useful offers were made in abundance during the show, but there was a slight overkill in the final moments, as though the players were suddenly in competition with each other to find the best punchline.
But these small issues did not take away my pleasure at the performers' work together. Their quick wit and clever ideas left me laughing out loud, and they avoided the traps many improvisers fall into: every offer made was accepted and built on, nobody played for laughs at the expense of another, and the resulting storyline was therefore fantastical, creative and highly entertaining. All in all, as Magadalena would say: a “triff” night out!