York ComedySoc’s resident improv troupe The Shambles make their return to Edinburgh this summer, promising to “sing, dance, mime, pun and act” for 50 minutes of completely unplanned comedy. Helped along by a healthy dose of enthusiastic audience participation, the group fulfil their promises and demonstrate the same talent and witty humour that they’ve shown in years past.
Ed Williams expertly leads the group as Kate Weedy, Lewis Crook, Marcus Crabb, Zack Sizer, Matthew Stallworthy, James Gamblin and Alex Hiscock take the stage at the Space @ Surgeon’s Hall – a familiar venue for the group’s Fringe veterans. The group performed to an almost full room on the first night – hopefully a positive omen for the rest of their month-long run at the festival. Throughout the course of the evening we are treated to a variety of bizarre improv games that demonstrate The Shambles’ blend of witty and inventive humour. Such delights include a musical adaptation of The Chuckle Brothers, a surreal tour around an Ikea populated with dubiously accented characters, and a successful attempt to rhyme ‘travel lodge’ with ‘gravel stodge’. It’s impossible to say that The Shambles aren’t quick on their feet. The group boast that each show is made up of a combination of nearly 100 improv games, some that are well-known favourites and some that are unique to the group, meaning that every show has the potential to be pulled in just about any direction.
The night ends with a musical number, accompanied by Williams on guitar. The success of the improvised song is a testament to the dynamics within the troupe; their synchronicity is truly impressive. However, it is Crook who stands out. Called upon to ‘spit some bars’, Crook manages not just one, but two rap verses, the second completely of his own volition, and as he steps forwards, his face reveals to the audience the look of a man questioning his actions.
Of course, everything could change at a moment’s notice and no two shows will be the same. However, if the group’s first performance is anything to go by, then nipping in to see The Shambles is a sure-fire way of ending a day at the Fringe on a light-hearted high note.