Impromptu Shakespeare

Every single audience member is given a ping pong ball with Shakespearean tropes written on them upon entry. The audience then have to throw these balls into the baggy breeches of one of the cast. The ones that land inside the breeches are then written up on a board, and from these, a premise and a play is born. Thus, we were to spend an hour watching an improvised Shakespeare play performed by six talented and hilarious actors, containing standard Shakespearean tropes of ‘purity, betrayal, forest, shipwreck, a storm’, and the curiously entertaining ‘pig’s bladder’. Further audience questioning leads to an opening monologue, which sets up other typical Shakespearean tropes, including location (Sicily) and a melancholic and noble male protagonist reminiscent of Hamlet, Count Orsino or Jacques. Next enter a brother and sister who wish to usurp their ducal cousin so that they could reign in a land of cake and wine, followed by a clown who fails to make his master laugh. These fairly conceivable Shakespearean concepts are all raised to a comedic level through the use of language, which is fairly authentic-sounding, complete with wordplay, conceits and metaphors, some of which are just plain silly.

Side-splittingly hilarious improvised comedy almost worthy of the Bard himself.

As the improvisers get into the swing of things, a hilarious narrative that checks all of the ping pong ball tropes is spun. The humour of the piece increases, with the entry of Juna, a maiden marooned on a desert island, with only a pig’s bladder to keep her occupied. I would never before have imagined how many jokes could be spun from this single idiotic object, but somehow it turned into one of the hilarious improvised scenes I’ve witnessed in a long time. The story turns into a neatly concluded comedy or romance, with couples and a long-lost daughter being discovered and married off to the fool.

As far as improvisers go, these guys are simply sublime. They work extremely well together as an ensemble, not letting a single strand go unconcluded, with endless jokes along the way that left the audience roaring away and doubling over in their seats. The way they dealt with the language was also remarkable, showing a profound knowledge of the conventions, which they manipulated with fluency and ease to hilarious results. There is a lot of really terrible improvised Shakespeare around, but Impromptu Shakespeare falls far from the category of the cringe-worthy, managing to produce side-splittingly hilarious improvised comedy almost worthy of the Bard himself.

Reviews by Fiona Russell

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The Blurb

A completely improvised Shakespeare play inspired by audience suggestions. Bursting with comedy, love, tragedy, mistaken identity and everything between, this show will delight Shakespeare nerds and newbies alike. Back for a third year, the cast buckle on the Bard's britches to bring you the plays he never wrote. 'Shakespeare from the hip. Ingenious and very funny' (Will Gompertz, BBC Arts Editor). 'They pull a seemingly authentic Bard play out of thin air' Recommended ( 'Outstanding hour of theatre' **** ( 'Riotous fun' ***** ( 'An impressive display of improv' **** (ThreeWeeks).

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