Thursday, 7 August 2014

Edinburgh Fringe - Showstoppers

     The Edinburgh Fringe is in full swing, which means the city is heaving with tourists and performers and there’s an inescapable buzz in the atmosphere. For someone living and working in the city, like me, it can get pretty irritating at times, but there’s no doubting how unique and exciting the city is during August. And it’s great when I have time off now and then to go try to catch some shows.

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     I went to see Showstoppers the other night, a group who improvise a musical from scratch before your eyes. I saw them last year, and they were very good, but I enjoyed this year’s even more. The format of the show is basically the same – one man receives a call asking him to come up with a new musical, he takes audience suggestions for the setting, musical influences and title, then throughout the show he pauses the performance to explain what he has written next, and of course the rest of the group must follow suit. This year I witnessed “Tonight We Dance in Hell”, set in the Spartan gypsy underworld and featuring songs inspired by The Sound of Music, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Sagon.

     I’ve seen improv shows that allow for more audience suggestions than this one (though we did also provide poets to inspire a love poem written on the spot), but this is understandable as the musical has to have a plot and steer towards an ending in a short space of time. The performers do fling in their own weird and wonderful ideas though – we had characters named Syphilis and Chlamydia and Spartans who were oddly reminiscent of cowboys, hoedowns and all. They also manage to put clever connections in to the plot and even worked the play’s title in to a song. The actors are not only exceptionally fast thinkers to create the story, but also hilariously funny and quick-witted, bouncing off each other’s retorts.

     We also shouldn’t forget to praise the musicians, who compose the accompaniments to each song on the spot, listening to each other and the performers and creating something really very impressive. Occasionally a performer would hesitate slightly or break character to laugh at something said, but this doesn’t detract from the performance at all. In fact, it reminds you that this is being improvised, and therefore just how good what they’re doing is. I would recommend this show to anyone – they even have a kids’ version on in the day – and you could go several times over and never see the same show twice. 

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