It’s hard to describe just how much Will Shakespeare’s ImproMusical lacked originality, skill and invention. From the moment its lead improviser drew our attention to the fabled ‘Wheel of Will’ and spun it to decide the Shakespeare play to be transformed into an improvised musical this evening, my heart sank. They asserted that they’d crossed out Hamlet because they’d done it too much (fair enough) and King Lear because it’s rubbish and ‘anyway, who here’s actually seen it?’ (are you serious?). The frustrating thing about the recent proliferation of improvisation at the Fringe is that there now exists such a vast quantity that it becomes impossible to locate the quality, and many companies appear to simply copy or steal from more superior outfits. This particular effort featured only one audience suggestion and influencing factor on their performance: a request for an Elizabethan profession. On this occasion the wheel stopped on Macbeth, with blacksmith the chosen job.
“the incompetent cast, who seemed versed in neither Shakespeare nor musicals, failed to bring any improvisational panache to proceedings”
I recently watched a highly entertaining and fairly dreadful Macbeth musical, which featured the embarrassingly deranged number ‘How Do You Murder A King?’. To say that they gave this iteration a run for its money is an understatement. The improvised songs lacked polish, with nearly every number consisting of a chorus made up of a single repeated line. Notable examples were Macduff’s turmoil becoming ‘Jazz Rage’ and the final showdown between him and Macbeth being soundtracked by nothing more than the company shouting ‘fighting montage’. Things went from bad to worse when Macduff offered a final retort to Macbeth: ‘try me, bitch’. I’d already lost patience but by this point I began to lose faith in humanity.
I asked myself throughout whether this show even qualified as improv, when there were only two contributing factors to the musical and the use of the blacksmith suggestion extended no further than replacing the name ‘Macbeth’ with ‘Macblacksmith’. The show also lacked the authenticity and linguistic gymnastics of other improvised Shakespeare shows at the Fringe such as Rhapsodes and Impromptu Shakespeare, throwing anachronism after anachronism, which might be forgivable if it had any satirical intent. I’d like to end on a positive note. Therefore, the show’s one redeeming feature was its excellent live band, consisting of piano, saxophone and percussion, who gamely continued even when the incompetent cast, who seemed versed in neither Shakespeare nor musicals, failed to bring any improvisational panache to proceedings.
SpaceTriplex, 15th – 26th August, 21:05