BattleActs, VAULT Festival

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by Bryony Rae Taylor

[A]n age-old improvising exercise is the one where two players perform a scene in which each line begins with the next sequential letter of the alphabet.

[B]ecause my review could just be: ‘good improvisers have good nights, and good improvisers have bad nights: BattleActs, an improv group that split into two teams and battle for points, are very good and they had a very good night…’

Instead, here’s what happened on the night I saw them. In alphabetical order.

[C]olin the Caterpillar cake just got brought on! What a national treasure! Trigger warning: he does not survive. It’s player Anna Leong-Brophy’s birthday and she’s been challenged to eat an entire Colin. I am jealous, and a little sickened.

[D]one a sneaky Google search, and there are 2,760‬ calories in a Colin. I am firmly against calorie counting, but blimey. Heartburn.

[E]nglish Actor Denise van Outen might be offended by Brendan Murphy’s characterisation of her. All those years learning to dance and he’s portraying her as a sassy sort of…

[F]lamingo!

[G]od, I’ve just messed this up because flamingos just featured, and I’ve just used my F. This is hard.

[H]osting the evening is Oliver Izod. He is very shouty, but in a funny way. He smells very strongly of sandalwood, which is nice. His aesthetic is a cross between Laurence Llewelyn Bowen in his ‘Changing Rooms’ days and the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. It works!

[I] hope the Colin thing isn’t a spoiler. I don’t think they can do this to someone every night. Anna’s halfway through already. Hero.

[J]ust realised that one of the players (Chris Eastwood) used to teach me Bodybalance™. Like yoga, tai chi and Pilates thrown together and then you take a nap at the end whilst you’re told everything’s going to be okay in a soothing voice. He’s great at improv!

[K]iell Smith-Bynoe, a player, has such a beautiful smile. He’s left the auditorium so the audience can come up with scenarios for the players that he will have to guess.

[L]andscape legend Alan Titchmarsh is going to be murdering someone by bashing them to death with a bible. He’s never going to guess this.

[M]y. God. He got it.

[N]ow they’re coming up with jokes on the spot. Most of them are alright.

[O]ne hundred and eighty-seven accountants walks into a bar and count how many bottles of spirits are there. They do a shelf assessment.

[P]retty mortified that the only verb I could think to contribute was ‘RUN!’ when the audience are asked for a prompt. Oliver’s eyes meet mine fleetingly. He is disgusted and asks me to leave. I am a disgrace to their art.

[Q]uite obviously, he did not ask me to leave.

[R]ude back row shout out very lewd suggestions. It’s a 9pm show so half the audience are a bit beery. In a good way.

[S]lough doesn’t fare well in this show. Where is Slough?

[T]he caterpillar cake is nearly gone. I repeat, the CATERPILLAR CAKE HAS NEARLY GONE. GIVE ANNA A TROPHY. I hope she doesn’t feel too sick to enjoy the rest of her birthday night.

[U]nusual way to spend a Friday night, this. Emily Lloyd Saini just failed to identify that Anna was trying to mime Tic Tacs to her, and Oliver absolutely lost it: ‘SHE’S TRYING TO GET YOU TO SAY TIC TACS!’.

[V]aults smells like pee. But we love it anyway.

[W]eirder than the presence of my ex-Bodybalance™ teacher is that I just remembered he is married to someone who was in an amateur dramatics group I used to go to. Small world. N.b to Editor: is this a conflict of interest? I’ve technically taken a nap with this guy?*

[X]……….. no. I’m not skilled enough to tackle X.

[Y]ou should see this group.

[Z]ebra. The saving grace of improv. If in doubt, Zebra. When you need a Z, Zebra.

*Editor’s Note: The Play’s the Thing UK does not regulate its critics’ napping choices.

BattleActs runs through 31 January.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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