Improv from the Crypt

This sharp-witted, smooth and extremely entertaining’ performance gets the seal of approval from WILLIAM STARK and JOSH MARKS.

Corpus Playroom impronauts Improv improv from the crypt ollie stephenson

Corpus Playroom, 9.30pm, Tue 3rd – Sat 7th Dec, £6/5

Improvised comedy is preceded by its reputation. To most, it’s synonymous with ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ and ‘I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue’. These masters set the bar high, and amateur improvisation can seem underwhelming. Luckily, then, the Cambridge Impronauts are very, very good. They’re sharp-witted, smooth and, ultimately, extremely entertaining.

The Corpus Playroom transformed itself before us into a swimming pool, an infinite chasm, and a Scottish golf course. The story grew more ludicrous, and more hilarious, as actors and characters bounced off the audience and their fellow cast-members.

To the Impronauts’ credit, they provide us with what they promise at the start: a story. Considering the infinite possibilities for its content (audience, come prepared with ideas), the story was remarkably satisfying. It really worked.

The ‘nauts created a teasing and comfortable rapport with the audience, and with each other. More impressively, though, Ollie Stephenson (the musical maestro who plays the keyboard beginning to end) seems to communicate telepathically with the cast and audience. He’s one step ahead of the game, and his fingers are three steps ahead of him.

Equally vital to the polished nature of the evening, the lighting technicians  managed to keep the story held together while also allowing it to flow. They seemed to have the knack of presupposing the next scene change, allowing the audience to clearly see the different ‘rooms’ the play took place by conjuring up distinct but appropriate lighting settings.

The actors, or comedians, used their space effectively, and manipulated the limited prop selection to their advantage. It may not have been as scary as billed, but what was lost in gore was made up for in perfect timing. The Impronauts trust each other and mock each other at the same time, and turn the audience’s dry suggestions into high-quality comedy.

The defining characteristic of this performance was the unshakableness of the  cast. Yes, of course, there was a degree of stuttering and slight confusion, but never did a scene fall flat on its face. The cast could adapt easily to the changes each actor made to the scene, and coped very well with the slight heckling of a certain reviewer (William!) at the start of the performance.

Of course, no two shows are the same. However if every performance is as slick as opening night, the Playroom audiences will leave with a sense of satisfaction that they experienced a play with a cohesive and succinct (and entirely improvised) plot. Moreover, they will feel they have had a thoroughly enjoyable experience watching the creative nuances of the Impronauts give a masterclass in spontaneity and fun.