Having been a stalwart of English-language culture for over four centuries, William Shakespeare's favourite dramatic motifs are surely common knowledge to at least most of the country's population. Theatrical betrayal, jealousy and love are almost the invention of the man and many of our most popular turns of phrase - 'a foregone conclusion' or 'with bated breath' - the consequence of Shakespeare's linguistic ingenuity.
Impromptu Shakespeare uses these well-known Shakespearean tropes as the basis for an improvised hour of gags and (light) drama, a style it nails brilliantly. Depending on the couple of adjectives and nouns picked out of an 'original' Elizabethan hat at the start of the performance, the cast of six actors moulds an entire play, complete with elegant soliloquies, graceful metaphors and the odd dash of cross-dressing.
Although each show is tailor-made every day, some of the better lines are so perfect that they could almost have come from the Bard himself. Indeed, the cast are so proficient at unobtrusively sprinkling their sentences with the idioms of Shakespeare's time that they must surely have memorised certain choice phrases before hand.
In any case, some of the the best moments could have been nothing but improvised. When one actor stumbled over introducing the 'noble Fernando,' Daniel Roberts cooly recovered the situation by quipping that 'Ferdinand' was the past conjugation of his name, 'Fernando' the present. The rest of the cast intelligently cottoned on, slyly referencing this joke for the remainder of the show. Towards the end of the performance, it wasn't at all obvious how the cast was going to include the three semi-random words (including, ominously, 'fire') that had been chosen to make up their play. Things came to a satisfying end, however, with a hilariously disturbing roasting-that-wasn't that allowed all the characters to come together and live blissfully ever after. After this outstanding hour of theatre, judging by the whooping applause of the audience, those on stage weren't the only ones to leave happy.