Lamplighters, Vault Festival

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by Meredith Jones Russell

Billed as part theatre, part game, part improv comedy, Lamplighters is certainly attempting to cast its net as wide as possible when it comes to appeal. Based on host and star Neil Connolly’s attempt to relive his favourite childhood game, it asks willing audience members to join in a madcap game of John le Carré-style spies.

Emphasis here on “willing” – there is no need to avoid the front row if you don’t want to get involved. Connolly promises at the top of the show only to invite willing volunteers to participate, and he keeps his word. If you’re that way inclined however, there are lots of opportunities to play silly roles, whether it’s a dead body (prepare to fling yourself prostrate on a helpfully unrolled rug), a patrolling janitor (prepare to stalk the stage with a torchlight to catch any intruders), the house band (prepare to accompany any tense moments using a child’s keyboard) or the lamplighter himself (prepare to attempt to suppress the urge to draw obscene pictures on a blackboard).

If you’re not a keen performer, though, you can sit back while Connolly guides the others through the story, and enjoy the steady stream of jokes and general pandemonium that reigns throughout the show. You’ll also get the chance to crack a code, provide lots of suggestions for plot twists, or simply heckle to your heart’s content.

The concept of the show is stronger than the delivery. You can’t fault Connolly’s enthusiasm, and each task for participants, whether it’s a game of charades or human Buckaroo, is well designed, but the host struggles to keep the show on track and isn’t always quick enough to get the best out of his audience interaction. The funniest bits are when the audience themselves take over and improvise their way through the tasks they are given. But it’s incredibly kind-hearted, with no attempts to humiliate or be cruel, and as something a bit different for a late night slot it’s certainly creative and does bring a few big laughs.

Lamplighters runs through 22 February.

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