Credit: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

Lights! Camera! Improvise!

One of the funniest comedy acts I've ever seen and the best thing is you get to decide what happens. This is improv at its quickest and best.

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
I went to see Lights! Camera! Improvise! on the recommend of my younger sister who watched it two years ago at the Fringe. Though she, aged 13, found it, ‘the most hilarious thing ever,’ I admit I was skeptical. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and will probably have to apologize to her if she reads this review.

The show begins with the claim that our host for the night, Oscar (Jonathon Sayer), has the best film collection in the world, not just of all the films ever made but of all the films that could ever be made. What the audience watches is entirely down to them. Inviting the audience to shout out genres, settings and names, Oscar’s quick wit builds an electric atmosphere before the main actors even step on the stage. The guy who shouts out that he wants to watch an, ‘Education film, about the body,’ is jokingly dismissed as, ‘a pervert’ and told to stick to watching that kind of film alone. The audience are loving it and the film hasn’t even begun.

After ten minutes of manic heckling (though Oscar pretty much manages to keep us under control) we chose to watch a martial arts film with a romantic twist, ingeniously named Love Kicks. Before us unfurls the story of an ageing martial arts fighter, who, since being cheated out of a championship title by his lover, has spent his days boozing in a grubby pub. Persuaded to reclaim his title he undergoes some dubious training methods, before winning back both his lost glory and love. The actors’ incredible ability to think on the spot means the narrative is tied together perfectly and through out the whole show I found it impossible to stop laughing.

If at any moment the dialogue slowed Oscar was quick to pause, replay or fast forward the action. It is his role which makes this improv act unique: his interjections enhance every moment of comedy, often spotting things the audience have missed and mercilessly mocking the actors for any mistakes. His sharp eyes, and even sharper tongue, mean no comic opportunity is lost.

Just two days later I made the dangerous decision to watch Mischief Theatre in action again. Seeing something twice is always a risk, like when you return in daylight, to the place where you had the best pizza ever at 3 am after a night out. This time the audience created a film called Goatzilla about a group of mutant goats terrorizing the quiet Yorkshire countryside. We didn't exactly make it easy for the actors. Though not quite as good as the first show, I was in stitches most of the time and the actors loved the challenge. Oscar’s direction kept the performance on the right side of the line between comedy and mayhem, and it was hard to believe that the chemistry and quick-witted dialogue between Nancy Wallinger and David Hearn, as a police double act, wasn’t scripted. Lights! Camera! Improvise! definitely passed the second test.

Twice is not enough times to see Lights! Camera! Improvise! and I will definitely be back this Fringe. This is one act not to miss.

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
60 Pleasance
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