Fringe Review: The Stephen Frost Impro Allstars

Runs until 29.5, Divadlo na Pradle, Kavarna, 19:45

Anyone familiar with British television and radio over the past 20 years will be familiar with Stephen Frost – from his double act with Mark Arden on Saturday Live in the 1980s, Who’s Line is it Anyway to Radio 4’s Just a Minute. Frost is a very sharp comedian and together with this troupe of Impro ‘Allstars’ provides a slick, professional comedy improv hour in the cramped café at Divadlo na Pradle. Frost begins the show with a short introduction of the show’s format, playing the crowd with warmth and wit, encouraging and instructing the audience to participate by shouting out suggestions for situations, styles of play and scenes. Alternately friendly and sarcastic playing the crowd, Frost steered the suggestions away from obvious cheap humour (audience members thinking they are being clever by suggesting a porno scene, etc) and with a snappy introduction kick-started the show.

What follows are a series of improvisation games – well-known to fans of comedy improv and to any actor who’s participated in impro training. Familiarity with the games is not, however, a draw back of any kind as these actors moved from one type of scene to another with tremendous wit, taking audience suggestions and running at break-neck speed, seamlessly blending stand-up comedy, storytelling and absurd theatre. To their advantage, they did not stick with one moderator or MC, but alternated who would introduce each game/scene, not allowing us to get bored with the same schtick. Of particular note was the interview with a man (played by three actors at once) who trains polar bears to throw the javelin; a particularly difficult 4-man dubbing sketch (where each actor provided the voice for another) descended into chaos - predictably – but was all the more hilarious for all that. Impro actors all have their up and down days and last night’s performance was no exception; Steve Steen and Richard Vranch were tremendous all evening and while Stephen Frost was very funny, he at times seemed to playing on auto-pilot. Andy Smart, although delightful occasionally, was laughing too much to ever be really funny or inventive.

To their great credit, these four never fell into the all-too-familiar trap of cheap smutty one-liners, remaining imaginative and surprising in their comic twists and turns. On a couple of occasions a scene was indulgingly allowed to run on, but this troupe is so alive to each other and the audience that such moments are soon forgotten. The kavarna at Divadlo na Pradle is small, so get their early because you don’t want to miss this outrageously funny and fast hour of very lively comedy.

The Stephen Frost Impro Allstars
Runs until 29.5, Divadlo na Pradle, Kavarna, 19:45

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