The Nassim Plays, Bush Theatre

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An actor stands on stage. They are handed a script they have never read before. A frank look at suicide, choice and learned behaviour unfolds after a menagerie of animal impressions.

An actor stands on stage. They are handed a script they have never read before. An hour of hilarious and revealing Mad Libs ensues.

An actor stands on stage. They are handed a script they have never read before. It’s a recipe that the actor must prepare whilst reflecting on the cultural importance and ritual of food.

An actor stands on stage. On the screen behind them, a script is projected they have never read before. Then there’s a live feed, a language lesson and a tender reflection on the meaning of home.

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Martin Creed’s Words and Music, Edinburgh International Festival

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by guest critic Tom Brocklehurst

This show does what it says on the tin.

We spend an hour in the company of Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed, who plays some of his songs, and talks through some of the things he finds troubling about modern life. In this respect, the show is more like a performance poet set – John Hegley meets Professor Branestawn.

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101, Theatre N16

101, Theatre N16 (1)

By an anonymous guest critic

Interactive theatre is hard work. Horror theatre is also palpably difficult to get right. In this case, the combination of the two proves too much for this able company of actors. Oneohone – a company specialising in interactive pieces – showcase a series of six shows, and I can only imagine that the other pieces were more successful than the piece that I see, which was at times a stilted, awkward affair.

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Droll, VAULT Festival

img_0177By guest critic Jo Trainor

“Let’s all dance ‘round the shitty faced baby.”

Drolls (director Brice Stratford explains) were short, raucous, illegal plays from the 17th Century. Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan interregnum banned theatre from 1642, but drolls were performed in pubs and alley ways to keep theatrical traditions going. Stratford says no one has put on a droll for 400 years, and boy, have companies been missing a trick because these sketches provide a hilarious evening of entertainment. There’s sex, there’s adultery, and you’re given a shot of whisky when you come in the door.

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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.

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In Fidelity, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Rob Drummond and his wife Lucy are celebrating their fifteenth anniversary. As a gift to her, he made a show where two single audience members have the opportunity to go on a first date there and then in the hope of finding the sort of love he has with Lucy. Though the bulk of the production centres around the selected couple on stage, there is plenty of audience interaction as we guide them down the path of getting to know each other. Part TED talk, part talk show, part slumber party, In Fidelity is as informative as it is heartwarming and fun.

Drummond’s extensive research on brain activity, hormones and psychology drives the framework around the first date and is consistently present throughout the show. The pop-science is easy to understand and his presentation style makes this content all the more engaging. After a series of questions he selects the two audience members who will have their first date, the focus becomes on facilitating the introduction of these two people. Each performance will undoubtedly be different and have varying degrees of successful matchmaking, but this makes it all the more exciting.

There’s a gleeful voyeurism that In Fidelity satisfies and even though Drummond gives the audience and the pair on their date quite a lot of freedom, he keeps a tight grip on discussion and interaction so it never feels that he will lose control of the show’s progression. This restriction ensures that everyone in the room feels safe, and its remarkable how quickly people feel comfortable answering very personal questions about their love life. Drummond’s onstage persona is warm and strong, a great balance that encourages the audience to open up. His incorporation of personal anecdotes, adventures in the research process and his own relationship’s journey also help.

The show ends happily the day I see it, with the couple clearly having some degree of chemistry between them. Even if that doesn’t happen, Drummond ends with some fantastic news of his own, leaving the audience with a warm, fuzzy feeling as they leave the theatre. This theatrical experiment is a wonderful exploration of form and its benevolence is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

In Fidelity ends 28th August.

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.

Impromptu Shakespeare, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Though there was likely to have been a level of improvisation in Shakespeare, Impromptu Shakespeare creates a whole new, short play every performance inspired by Shakespeare’s style and language. Though quality will vary from show to show, it remains an impressive display of skill in long form improvisation. This is obviously not a polished performance of a play or a script worthy of development, but the source material is evident and consistent comedy ensure plenty of laughs.

To compile a suitable stimulus on which to ground their piece, each audience member is given ping pong balls with thematic words on them. From the barrage of balls that are soon tossed around the room, several are chosen and written down. An audience member provides his/her name and a location, and off they go.

Today, the English are preparing for war against the Welsh and Cornish. King Matthew of England’s beautiful daughter (played by a man) wants to fight the forces of the Welsh bishop, but the Celtic nations are strong and brutal. Who will win? Will the single bishop find a companion? Will the princess be allowed to fight? The play becomes a rough draft of an unpublished Shakespeare history play that is more talk that action, but still delightfully funny.

The main issue with this format is sustaining any sort pace as the performers think on their feet and deliver lines they make up on the spot. There may be a format that the company follows to ensure some sort of story develops, but there are inevitable loose ends and undeveloped subplots.

Even with a slow pace and a story that doesn’t quite live up to the quality of Shakespeare’s writing, laughs are plentiful in this entertaining display of skill.

Impromptu Shakespeare runs through 28th August.

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.