Improvisation can often be either exhilarating or excruciating and sometimes both, but hardly ever is it boring. Notflix has achieved something I thought impossible and delivered a truly dull improv show, with nothing original to offer to the genre and precious little laughs to be had.
“one really needs to do more with the format than play it this safe and predictable”
The twist they put on the formula is a focus on films, taken from audience suggestions made before the show, with the assertion made early on that ‘everything is better as a musical’. We’ll agree to disagree. On this occasion, out of the hat came two options which we were then expected to democratically vote on. What would emerge, something tried and tested like Star Wars or perhaps we were about be treated to the musical transformation of something a little grittier, like the Shawshank Redemption? Our choices today? Christopher Nolan’s recent war movie Dunkirk and Ang Lee’s Oscar-nomintated adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. My natural expectation would’ve been for the company to reject these two rather esoteric options out of hand and plunge their hands back into the hat. Alas, no. The audience voted on Dunkirk, which irked me, largely as I’ve yet to see the film and would wish to avoid spoilers at all costs. Yes, I know it depicts a historical event. I’m weird like that.
I might have forgiven the company if they’d actually done anything remotely interesting with the idea of camping up a serious picture like Dunkirk, with obvious parodic options being the fact that Harry Styles appears in the film with an ocean of One Direction-based gags available, or reference to the rest of Nolan’s material, such as Tom Hardy being made to play another character who can barely be heard thanks to a mask. Unfortunately, the resulting improvisation made the company look unrehearsed and was so obviously a series of rinse-and-repeat numbers, that I lost patience within the first five minutes.
I certainly cannot fault the performers themselves, who were all excellent singers and produced some gorgeous harmonies on the spot. Equally, their energy and cohesiveness as an ensemble was palpable, with a number of excellent eccentric facial expressions displayed throughout. However, in the crowded field of Fringe improvisation, one really needs to do more with the format than play it this safe and predictable. If you’re searching for such on-the-spot delights, there are far better options out there this year.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 2nd – 28th August, 15:00
Image: Waiting for the Call