Improvabunga, Edinburgh Festival Fringe


by Diana Miranda

How do you earn the spotlight for a musical thriller about spy kids facing deathly traps at an indoor trampoline park? Producers, take note of the title: Jump into death: the bounce back. It might be too specific a niche, but worry not, the solution is simple. Call Watch This Improv Troupe. 

On the closing night of the troupe’s run of the improvised movie show Improvabunga, the audience saw Tom and Eric’s story coming to life: two aspiring spy kids take on a learn-as-you-go training while infiltrating their opponent’s trampoline park, the lethal Red Rose. Believe it or not, they fail. Tom escapes, but Eric is captured and brainwashed. He who wished to become a Bond girl diverts from his dream to become a Terminator-like avenger that goes back to kill his mentors, Mr. Collins and Shelly, and make room for the Red Rose…who didn’t want the trampoline park anyway and decides to leave it to Tom and Eric so that they can ‘bounce back’. Just like that, you have the setting for the upcoming Jumping to Death Part II. But don’t get too attached; improvisation is a theatrical form as fleeting as theatre can get. 

The cast deftly controls the performance’s tempo, bringing the scenes and the overall show to a well-balanced length. If we catch someone making a mental calculation in a two-second pause, the entertainment after the ellipses pays off. The troupe follows each other’s lead and builds on the underlying structure to devise a long-form improv show before the audience’s eyes. Even when a peer’s offer is crazier than normal, the ensemble shows no sign of struggling to move it forward.

As a 50-minute show, the audience engagement is limited. The relationship among the performers flows smoothly, and the scenes interweave with such continuity that improv skeptics may doubt its spontaneity. However, the production team surveys the queueing audience before the show to receive location ideas. I failed to see who suggested the winning location, but by perusing the audience it’s possible to see whose grin is the brightest. I know my smile was evident when the team took on my suggestion for the show’s title. Additionally, the performers give the audience control through improv buzzers that allow someone to dictate, for instance, when an actor is to be kissed or slapped. If these endeavours don’t satisfy skeptics, in the end, they will still be laughing.

The ensemble makes this experience as amusing as it is creative. They embrace whichever offer comes their way without fidgeting and don’t restrict themselves to waiting on the sidelines. A helicopter scene? I’ll be the blades. Now I’ll do the parachute. Oh, buzz! And slap! Keep it together, Shelly! Those kids need you, never mind those other spy kids you lost all those years ago. And a musical thriller needs songs, yes? You got it. Improvabunga features live musical accompaniment for songs composed on the spot, chorus and everything.

Improvabunga’s storytelling offers a movie – sorry – a theatre night of creativity, humour and theatre-making in the flesh. As long as Watch This Improv Troupe is around, there might be no need to browse online films. 

Improvabunga ran until 21 August.

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