The Shambles

Production: The Shambles
Venue: Vanbrugh
Rating: ***

I have a confession to make. I am not a sporty person. This can lead to a rather dull Wednesday night when every other student is dressed as a llama and downing WKDs in Ziggy’s. So, in the absence of this, what to do on a Wednesday evening? The answer may lie in Vanbrugh lecture theatre. In the odd weeks of term (as opposed to the even ones, and not the ones spent in an alcohol-fuelled daze), Comedy Soc stage their ‘Shambles’ night – improvised comedy performed by a bunch of brave students who charge onto the stage in branded T-shirts, grinning at a largely captive audience.

For a first impression, the Shambles team should be proud. The potential “cringeworthy” quality of improvised amateur comedy is smothered by an impressive light and sound display and slick organisation – our master of ceremonies, named John, manages to briefly explain the premise of the show whilst gently coaxing us into audience participation. If you have ever watched Whose Line Is It Anyway? you’ll get the general idea – a very basic scenario is introduced, and the theme or motivation of said scenario is provided by the cheekier members of the crowd. This might include a blind date, a secret mission or even the particular topic of expertise of a three-headed man. I got stuck in at once by insisting that one of the comedians pretended to be an animated grandfather clock, which my victim did with imaginative flair. This first act, in fact, was one of the more impressive of the night; as one might expect, the comedic quality of the “games” varied, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that each and every one kept me entertained. Despite a few new faces, the dynamism held, as the comedians kept alert to one another’s wordplay and moved the scenes forward. They also inspired a great deal of admiration – I had always considered stand-up to be the bravest challenge comedy had to offer, but the “Manipulations” game (allowing a giggling Physics student to force your body into increasingly obscene postures) opened my eyes to the scary truth – improvisation is not for the faint-hearted. It is, however, for the thrifty and the social. At only £2 entry a show, and a regular improvisation workshop on offer on Thursday evenings in Langwith, the “Shambles” crew are keen to involve one and all in their exploits, with as much personal participation as you are willing to give.

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