Friday, 29 January 2016

Impromptunes: The Completely Improvised Musical - Fringe World 2016 (28 January 2016)

Spoiler Alerts ahead!

Wait, what?!

One of the beauties of Impromptunes is that no two shows will ever be alike. It’s the genius of the premise that sees a completely self contained one hour musical performed every night. Not even the cast know what’s going to happen or even what the topic is going to be. That’s left to the audience who call out suggestions for the title of a “never before seen musical’. On the night I attended a gentleman shouted with great assurance... Death of a Vegan!

And so it was that Vegans were killed in the service of art to hilarious and unpredictable effect. 

The show kicked off with our host, the vivacious Louisa Fitzhardinge, explaining the ‘rules’ such as they were. In the cacophony of suggestions that greeted her request for titles the word ‘vegan’ floated above the din like a fountain of kale caught in a gentle breeze. Yes, vegans were in for a rough time which was made even more amusing when Fitzhardinge informed us that one of the cast was indeed, gasp, a vegan! I found out which one after the show but I have chosen to keep that identity a secret to protect their safety in a world of redneck, meat eating savages. Yes, redneck, meat eating savages were lampooned mercilessly as well.

Death of a Vegan was the tale of Bryce (Morgan Phillips) who runs away to join the convent where he is renamed Brother Lychee after reciting the three rules of this Nutrition Revolution to Elder Beetroot (Emmet Nichols). Bryce’s parents Amberly Cull (the mother) and Fitzhardinge (father) are concerned for their missing boy. This concern is magnified into homicidal rage when the Scot, Father Cherry (Greg Lavell), comes a knocking after Brother Lychee disappears in the forest after chopping down the Spirit of the Woods (Hollie James) or some such thing. Lychee and Beetroot find true love while on the run though it’s not sure if that was with each other or bacon, perhaps both. Everyone is reunited in the end with a rousing finale of We All Need A Little Balance.

Sure, the plot is bat shit crazy as you’d expect from something completely improvised. The joy is in the antics of how they get there and it’s nothing less than impressive. Before I continue, there is a significant seventh member of the troupe and that is accompanist Robert Woods on keyboards. He supplies mood, pace and musical cues for the cast to bounce off and vice versa.

Everything is improvised from the plot to lyrics, music, and the characters chosen. The reason this works is twofold: all seven clearly were well versed in the musical theatre form. They intuitively know when to bring in a duet (I’d Go Anywhere With You), or to reprise a song; when to harmonise or change things up with an upbeat number such as Lickety Splits on the night; to close with a crowd pleasing ‘message song’ or to overlap two songs to accentuate opposing themes.

Secondly, there is a real camaraderie and sense of trust here. Phillips was gleefully put through the wringer by especially Nichols which was mined for maximum laughs. Watching them all operate there were plenty of quick nods to identify pairings; focussed eye contact to work out where a beat or scene was going; and ultimately a sense of play. The result feels purely organic, pun intended.

I’m sure each member has a show where they are the focal point but for me Nichols and Cull were the standouts on the night but everyone was fabulous in a very funny production that was a delight to watch. The line of the night - Fitzhardinge's explanation that they called their son Bryce because beef is good with rice. Obviously! 

Highly recommended but be quick as the show, on at the Noodle Palace, finishes on 30 January

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