Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 Review: The Shambles’ Improvised Comedy

Despite comedic inertia, the York-based acting troupe’s brave attempt at improv manages to impress

Photo courtesy of The Shambles

Photo courtesy of The Shambles

Venue: theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall, Edinburgh Fringe Venue 53
Rating: ★★★☆☆

The popular York troupe, The Shambles, took their talents to Edinburgh this year with an evening of improvised comedy for the Fringe-goers. Throughout, the show was highly entertaining, largely well executed, and at times, hilarious.

Charles Deane was a dynamic and expressive host, managing to enthuse a disappointingly small audience and propel the energy forward. He navigated the group through a range of improvised comedy ‘games’ which quickly took a bizarre turn, featuring atomic bomb zits, a journey through heaven, hell and an incompetently run purgatory, and Matthew Stallworthy’s hilarious performance as a Bond villain who had attached a bomb to a tiny dog.

The show had an arguably slow start; the first improvised sketch falling a little flat as it failed to pick up speed. However, our host managed to successfully rally his audience for the second task: a role-playing game where the scene was continually shifting which allowed the performers to show their ingenuity as they played with the audience’s suggestions. The pace plodded along nicely from this point onwards, and we were treated to various nonsensical imaginings from the cast during an Improvised West End show featuring fire-fighters, a court case in which the sinister father figure, conjured by George Hughes, faced the tribunal of the tooth fairy, and a bitter showdown in which jokes were used as weapons.

Every performer displayed great agility throughout the show, and there is no doubt that this was a talented line-up. Ali Woods in particular gave a shining performance, displaying a consistently quick and dexterous wit throughout. He was one of the performers who managed to save the ending game, ‘99 Red Balloons’, where the pace dropped significantly and some struggled to create jokes on such a short time-scale. I feel this was a poor choice in finishing the show as the stalled nature of the game itself drained much of the humour from the situation.

Overall, this is a commendable performance which took a lot of guts. There was an excellent chemistry between the performers, and camaraderie within the group which was touching to see. Recommended to all Fringe-goers who fancy a bit of improvised comedy.

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