Tonight I was at the Nottingham Playhouse to see Rhymes against Humanity (a musical comedy grouping, not a punk/poetry ensemble) and MissImp, an improv comedy group. There is a lot of crossover in membership between both groups, with the total number of performers being twelve. The big show tonight was MissImp doing ‘Millions of Voices’, an improvised show set on Alderaan, just before the Death Star depressed house prices there.
My favourite type of comedy features tightly written, intelligent material and is very polished (think Peter Brush). My least favourite type is probably a toss up between improv and musical comedy. So it was no wonder, that to borrow a phrase from the film, I had had a bad feeling about this all day. So obviously this begs the question, of what was I doing buying a ticket to a show that I knew wouldn’t be my cup of tea? I could have gone to Glee, Jongleurs, or if I’d fancied a trip into the wilds of Derbyshire, the Funhouse night in Matlock. The answer lies in two areas. A, I’ve not seen a lot of improv, so may actually enjoy it if I see more. However, it was mostly reason B that attracted me to this show. Three of the performers are figures on the local comedy circuit who have all made an impact on me for differing reasons. Ben MacPherson, with his cultured voice has a definite presence, Jeanette Bird-Bradley has the ability to keep calm when things are not going as planned and above all, Liam Webber has made a big impression as an actor and quick thinker of ability.
The show began with Rhymes against Humanity, following a brief warm up, which encouraged the audience to talk by asking for name, date of birth and national insurance number (personally, I think asking for the last 3 off the back, would have worked better than NI number). This was then followed by Lloyd asking who in the audience was in a relationship and selecting a couple from this pool to volunteer a few facts for RaH to work with. This elicited the information that they had met at teaching college, she was a teacher, he was a librarian, she liked programmes with murders in and he liked programmes with Chinese people in. This certainly had the potential to turn the gig into something very different, but luckily the ensemble were wise enough to avoid any cheap jokes involving eyes when singing a song weaved from these facts. After this, it was the same modus operandi with another teacher and the other members of RaH getting to craft a scene and then a song based on the data provided. The response to both of these skits was enthusiastic, with the audience enjoying it and laughing regularly. Personally, I wasn’t that keen, but I was probably in a minority of one on this. I found the ad-libs stronger than the set pieces, which I felt were a bit light on laughs for me. What was announced as a twenty minute slot overran, lasting thirty-five minutes or so, which was a far larger overrun than I would have liked, but in fairness, everyone, barring me was really involved with it.
After the intermission it was time for the main event: Millions of Voices. The subtitle for this episode, suggested by an audience member, was ‘The Green eyed Hamster Strikes Back’. This began with an impressive pastiche of the introductions to the films, featuring two cast members unfurling a black scroll with yellow writing on it (chalked in: Green eyed hamster strikes back). Another member read it out, shouting Death Star in a way not unlike Eddie Izzard’s own take on the Death Star (we’re a STAR that does DEATH, etc). Having seen Discount Comedy Checkout, I was half expecting the action to be stopped every now and again, and for the show to continue in a different genre, such as Carry On, or slapstick. Instead, the show featured 7-8 separate sketches set in various locations on Alderaan and the Death Star itself, with differing members of MissImp playing the characters. Some of these sketches were better than others. The scenes involving the Jedi Master and his school of Padawans and the Frogmellions were consistently the most entertaining. Both could be described as the bright centre of the universe. There were some good lines, such as internship, the padawan with a note from his mum and the call backs to rebellion with a lower case r. These were all good value, as was the fun to be had in spotting the direct quotes from Star Wars. Possibly the laugh of the night came from a mix up, which may not have been an accident, involving the wrong person playing an existing character, leaving the original performer to shout, ‘he’s the wrong disgraced dad!’. If this wasn’t a pre-prepared stunt, then it was wonderfully of the now and is the sort of thing to remember to include in future performances.
I can’t say that I had a great night, because improv and musical comedy are still definitely not my cup of tea. However, I can say that I enjoyed myself. If I had a decent evening, then I can confidently state that the rest of the audience had a wonderful time. Whilst this isn’t my thing, I would certainly recommend people to go and see both MissImp and Rhymes against Humanity, as they are undoubtedly talented. In particular, I was impressed by, Nick Tyler, who provided a lot of the mirth and Liam Webber (who didn’t perform in Millions of Voices, but instead played under RaH), who whatever his day job is, should be acting for a living.