Now in its second year, Birmingham Improv Festival has doubled in size to become a week packed full of comedy. And if the launch night is anything to go by, there are plenty of treats up its sleeve for the days to come.
Opening the festival were Birmingham’s first black, Asian and minority ethnic improv group Jumprov with a half hour of games and fun. One moment the troupe members were improvising a tale about a giant sausage and the next they were playing musical chairs with roles.
Jumprov were a particularly apt opener for the festival as the group were formed by performer Sunny Dhap after he attended the inaugural Birmingham Improv last year and noticed the lack of diversity in the audience. There’s still a freshness and rawness in the edges of Jumprov but the troupe can certainly rise to the occasion by throwing out new material on cue.
Also Birmingham-based are Fat Penguin Improv whose half-hour set was based on a real-life story prompted by one word from the audience. In this case, the word was ‘finger’ which led to an anecdote about an attempt to be cool by hanging onto the roof of a Mini Metro – until the doors were slammed on both hands – ouch!
From this point, the troupe digressed into a number of sketches loosely held together with a common thread. Fast-paced and energetic, there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments but the show as a whole would have benefited from a bit more variety of character and narrative.
Headliner Rhymes Against Humanity are high on imagination, performance and delivery, creating a one hour musical out of a title offered by the audience. Quite how they managed to turn ‘Blasted by the AC’ into a musical with so many characters, plot-lines, songs and even dance routines is beyond me.
So we had the thwarted office romance in a company who specialised in air conditioning, a polar bear travelling across the ice to discover the cause of global warming and a daughter attempting to win her father’s respect by evilly heating up the planet. Where the company is particularly expert is in taking the clichés of musical theatre and using them to drive the story forward.
Taking place at the Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, there will no doubt be plenty more gems during the week-long festival.
FROM BEHIND THE ARRAS (http://www.behindthearras.com/Reviewspr/2017/reviewPROOctDec2017/improv-festival-review-BO10-17.html)
Billed as ‘bigger, better and Brummier, this years Birmingham Improv Festival has 24 companies and solo artists, performing 21 shows over 7 days.
The festival opened with a bang to a full and very appreciative audience.
Birmingham based Jumprov, Britain’s first B.A.M.E improv group was first up with thirty minutes of improvised comedy sketches. Sunny Dhap was inspired to form the group in the hope of attracting a more diverse audience to this year’s festival.
The troupe made up mostly of actors kept us smiling with sketches such as ‘The Sausage that ate Cincinnati’ a title suggested by the audience, a tv channel hop scenario, and a very funny sketch about pregnancy in hippos translated from Punjabi.
`The group are new to improv and are still developing their skills, and although a little hesitant at times they show great potential for the future. They certainly kept the audience entertained and laughing.
Another Birmingham based group Fat Penguin Improv created their improvised story based on one word given by the audience. In this case the word was finger and but quite how the story evolved to mostly focus on the subject of giant genitalia is quite bewildering.
Rhymes Against Humanity
Generally entertaining and funny, the improv did tend to get a little sticky at times and the development of the storyline suffered slightly because of it. Despite this they still won the audience appreciation.
The Nottingham based headliners Rhymes Against Humanity certainly stole the show. Creating a full length musical based around the audience suggested title ‘Blasted by the A C’. The group’s timing, imagination, quick wit and speedy reactions are perfection. The members work so well together they must surely all be telepaths!
Complete with improvised musical score, great pace, songs a plenty, hilarious action and dialogue, the result was sensational. A strong, professional, highly skilled and thoroughly entertaining performance which was extremely well received by the audience. A high energy, comedy packed opening night with the promise of much more to come.
The festival runs till 29th October and includes improv workshops for both children and adults.
Rosemary Manjunath and Elizabeth Smith
FROM NEWSTYLE RADIO
If you are at a loose end this weekend (or even if you are not) get yourself down to the Blue Orange Theatre for the conclusion of this years Improv Festival. It really does have something for everyone!
I was lucky enough to attend some of their performances earlier in the week, and I can honestly say I had one of the best nights ever! The audience were encouraged to participate but not in a way that you were made to feel uncomfortable or awkward . Jumprov is the first ethnically diverse group who were able to make you laugh without making you think, “should I be laughing at this”. Their Davinda Attenborough at KFC was priceless and still makes me chuckle now!
Fat Penguin was another Improv group that had you laughing at the most surreal scenario’s, giant genitalia springs to mind!
For me the highlight of the evening was Rhymes Against Humanity (this wasn’t an easy choice as they were all so good).
RAH asked the audience to write down a title for a new musical, as it so happened mine got picked, I know I maybe a tad biased but even I was amazed what they did with “Blasted by the AC”.
Not having been to an Improv festival before I wasn’t sure what to think, however I can honestly say I had the best time, the performers we amazing, a very talented bunch who could think fast on their feet!
A fabulous, fun evening out with plenty of laughs and a great atmosphere! I am a real convert now and can not recommend it highly enough. This is the only time “fail to plan, plan to fail” does not apply.
Roll on 2018 I can’t wait for next years festival.
Suzie, Newstyle Radio 98.7fm