Wunderkammer, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Jo Trainor

6 performers, 2 musicians, 1 speaker; Do Not Adjust Your Stage’s Wunderkammer is its own wonderful world of improv insanity.

Wunderkammer works by having a professional make a speech in front of the audience and performers, and from that the ensemble and musicians take ideas, stories and characters and make a series of comedic sketches. Think a funky extension of a TED talk.

At this performance, DNAYS invited journalist and travel author Andrew Fraser to speak. Fraser’s book tells the story of his one month trip around Europe that only cost him £144; an impressive and interesting achievement in itself. But Fraser’s big personality and political views were the source for most of DNAYS’ scenes, rather than his adventures abroad.

With all his experiences, Fraser’s story could have been an event on its own, but for the improvisers his spiel goes on a little long. This is a real shame because it feels like the performers only have twenty minutes to play with, and the quality of comedy really picks up as the show went along.

Six people is a lot to have in an improv troupe, so it’s no wonder that it takes them a little while to get into the swing of things. When they start, the sketches feel a little disjointed; stories plateau and ideas aren’t picked up. But by the end the scenes are running seamlessly and tiny narrative strands became their own hilarious scenes. The ensemble clearly know each other very well, because performers would make each others mistakes into their own sketches. A cathedral choir singing via thinking simply to take the mick out of Nick Oram’s slip of the tongue was totally worth it.

The great thing about improvised comedy is that every single show is different. Andrew Fraser was a fascinating character, but he didn’t seem to fully understand his role in the show. DNAYS may not have created consistently funny content, or have used their musicians to their full potential, but with a different set of circumstances the show could have been brilliant.

Wunderkammer runs through 11 February.

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