Credit: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

Racing Minds - Aaaand Now for Something Completely Improvised

Sometimes absurd, always hilarious and never chaotic, Racing Minds' improv is incredible

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
An ageing, forgetful, pipe-smoking Grandfather sits down to tell his two grandchildren a story, but unfortunately it has completely slipped his mind, nor can the butler remember a thing about what happened. In fact they're both utterly clueless. We know it's an improv show so what will happen next is obvious... time to ask the audience.

The caricature style butler, played by Daniel Roberts, picks randomly on the audience (but don't worry you'll receive a Werther's Original in return for your ideas). Things start of well with the main character confidently named Ali Karn by a woman in the back, a setting of 'darkest bohemia' is also quickly picked and after a slight struggle 'a drain' is chosen as the specific location. So far, so good. The butler then asks 'now what is Ali Karn's deepest secret' and a little boy pipes up 'his head is really a hat', singlehandedly succeeding in giving Racing Minds an almost impossible challenge. A woman is then picked to choose a name for the play; she is clearly struggling but Dougie encourages her to 'smash some words together' and perhaps taking him a little too literally the play is named 'The Velvet Crevice'.

So our story begins in darkest bohemia, at the bottom of a drain staring Ali Karn the man who really has a hat for a head...

Two surprisingly coherent and converging narratives appear from the messy challenge we've given Racing Minds. First Ali Karn is set the mission of rekindling the lost love between a man and wife who once loved The Velvet Underground; parallel to this Andy Warhol is returned to the living after a period of deep refrigeration. Wanting to take over the world by claiming everything as art, Andy Warhol recreates The Velvet Underground as a distraction for his plans, which due to copyright reasons must be renamed 'The Velvet Crevice'. It's tenuous, but hilarious all the same. Due to copyright reasons Andy Warhol himself must also change his name, which seems to switch between 'Andy Battle-corridor' and 'Andy Skirmish-room'. In true storybook style, Ali Karn saves the day and his secret head/hat proves to Andy Battle-Corridor that he can't claim to own what he knows nothing about.

The play is absurd, but somehow never descends into anarchy, and the witty references and repeated jokes keep the audience loving it. The five cast members bounce of each with incredible ease; sometimes, with knowing looks to the audience, making things particularly difficult for each other. Tom Skelton, as Ali Kahn, suggests to Dougie Walker, who plays both husband and wife, that he bring his wife to the The Velvet Crease concert and surprise her with a kiss... the result is hilarious.

Chris Turner playing 'an ethereal', terribly prim and oh so dreadfully feminine lady from Hampshire is particularly on form, filling any slight pauses with her whimsical thoughts or, more often than not, her floating dance moves. Her/ his inability to fit into her/his costume is also an old school source of amusement.

There is almost no point reviewing the show I saw today, because the one you see tomorrow will be completely different. The beauty of improv is you don't know what you're going to get. Racing Minds however can guarantee you an hour of ridiculous hilarity, which they somehow manage to tie together in an absurd but comprehensive storyline.

By Laura Jeffrey

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
60 Pleasance
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