Improvabunga! returns to the fringe this year with their delightful improv movie show. Reviewing an improv performance normally relies on the fleeting moments of comedy created on that particular day, but Improvabunga have certain consistent tricks to make their performance stand out. Although they employ the usual techniques of asking for a location and a movie genre from the audience, they also give out four buzzers to certain members of the crowd - one to change the plot’s direction, one to spark an Oscar-worthy speech, one to induce a kiss or a slap, and one to start a musical number. This establishes a strong connection between the audience and the cast to ensure that a relaxed atmosphere encourages ease of laughter.
Improvabunga! uses two hosts to welcome in the audience. They very cleverly introduce their act with a movie trailer. Although clearly formulaic in structure if not in content, this encourages the audience’s faith in the troupe as comics, allowing for the tension that so often accompanies improv to immediately dissipate.
The movie chosen for this performance was a heist thriller, set in Count Dracula’s mansion. The audience suggested the title of ‘Count Down: Fangs for the Memories’. Participating in sections of comic creation in this way continued the conversation between audience and cast, as well as giving them a stake in the performance.
As the plot unravelled, different gangs were seen in their attempt to steal gold from Count Dracula. One of the troupe’s strengths was their character creation. Not only were the figures invented well-established in their introductions, but their characteristics were maintained throughout the performance. One audience favourite was ‘Sticky Fingers-Stu’, who brilliantly maintained the comedic gag of getting stuck to things right to the very end.
The plot itself, however, was slightly more contrived and nonsensical. The troupe’s improv was undeniably hilarious to watch, but this was partially because they found humour in plot-holes and other mistakes. For student theatre, this is certainly the best approach to take, yet it would have elevated the level of comedy had the plot felt more solid.
Their songs, albeit sometimes lyrically lacking, showcased the group’s unison and impressive ability to collaborate. These numbers were some of the most hilarious moments of the performance, with the troupe using simple and effective techniques to build songs with real structure.
Improvabunga! is a joy to watch; its cast both quick-witted and impressive at acting in and of itself. While cleanliness may not be their strongest suit, comedy certainly is. This group will leave you aching at the sides. Such an atmosphere do the cast create that you feel wonderfully part of their games and their laughter in equal turn - part audience member, part participant.