REVIEW The Impronauts: Improv on the Orient Express
If I were a fifty year old man I’d say it was ‘a romp of an evening’.
Improv on the Orient Express is a totally improvised Agatha Christie-style murder plot, with the setting and murderer chosen by audience members. The detective, played by Joe McGuchan, is not told who will be committing the murder so they actually have to guess whodunnit, and may well be wrong. Other than this very basic formula, the play should be totally different each night, depending on what location is chosen and what the improvisers, whose talent for thinking up characters on the spot must be commended, feel like doing.
One of the strengths of the Impronauts is the element of audience participation; what would otherwise seem like an ill-advised decision to perform a play without having rehearsed it or even having written it becomes an amusing situation where the audience has forced the actors in a certain direction and has to watch them struggle to create some semblance of a plot. Sort of a sadistic enjoyment really, but in a light-hearted way.
If the Impronauts continue the same level of absurd humour that they had when I saw it then this is well worth a watch. If I were a fifty year old man I’d say it was ‘a romp of an evening’. Admittedly the plot was about the same standard as when the Brownie Guides I lead tried to write a play but one does not go into an improvised play expecting a cohesive or probable plot and in many ways the rambling plot made the experience all the funnier.
The laughs were mostly based around off the cuff gags, for some reason there seemed to be a lot of cheese related jokes while I was there. Lighting helped move things along, as orange light indicated a flashback scene that provided motives for the characters to have killed and white light indicated the present.
The only thing which seemed a bit odd was that the lights sometimes cut out abruptly to end a scene before the actors had actually finished talking but I assume this is to stop the improvisers getting too carried away and forgetting the minor detail of the plot.
In general the cast were equally good and I enjoyed all of their performances, and they all managed to turn mistakes into humorous moments, especially the confusion over Baden-Baden and Naden-Naden, one of which was where the play was set, although I’m honestly still not sure which it was.
They managed to capture the Agatha Christie mood with plummy accents, eccentric characters and a set of simple but effective costumes that allowed the improvisers to be any character while having a 1930s sort of feel.
A special mention must be given to Laurence T-Stannard who played mood-setting music throughout the show, which helped the whole thing feel a bit more immersive, given the absurd nature of the plot. All in all it’s a funny way to spend an hour or so and I’d give it 4/5 stars.