A Night Of Noir: ‘The Anger Games’

The Tab reviews the opening night of Bristol Improv’s film noir

Improvised comedy is an unbelievable skill.

Having to perform in front of a paying audience and be funny can be hard enough with a script, let alone without one. The potential to flop is massive, though generally restricted by the format the comedy takes; quick sketches and games, often prompted by audience suggestions, which can be quickly forgotten if they go down like a lead balloon.

Bristol Improv’s latest show aims for a far more ambitious setup. ‘A Night Of Noir’ is an entire, single story, improvised on the spot in the style of an old Hollywood, black and white drama.

Before the show, the audience are asked what it should be called and prompted to put their suggestions in a hat. One is then drawn at random, giving the performers their plot for the evening.

Trusting the audience this much seems a risky venture, though I guess that’s half the fun.  Barring a freak coincidence, each night of the run will be different, so there’s no harm in me telling you yesterday’s title was ‘The Anger Games’.

Taking this as their starting point, the ensuing plot centred on two assassins trying to kill one another whilst others bet on the outcome. Sound familiar?

Certainly the most impressive aspect of the show was how a clear plot and structure quickly developed, despite the performers only knowing the title for a couple of minutes. Despite the show lasting an hour, the story never fell apart and whilst the play itself wasn’t particularly enterprising, it remained consistently fun.

In fact, the storyline was so steady and well-paced it was hard not to imagine some aspects might have been pre-rehearsed.

The stage production also deserves credit, with efficient use of lighting and live music helping establish the dramatic ‘noir’ environment as well as lending an air of professionalism to the show.

The only flaw with ‘A Night Of Noir’ (especially for someone reviewing it) is there’s no guarantee of what you’ll get. The show I saw might be the best of the run, or tonight’s might blow it out of the water.

However, this is the peril of all improvised comedy. At least by paying homage to such a narrow genre, Bristol Improv have made it very hard for them to go wrong. If their performances and inventiveness can last for the next two nights, the result won’t be one to miss.

‘A Night Of Noir’ is on tonight and tomorrow in the Lady Windsor Theatre (MR5C) at the Student Union.