Last night, Bristol Improv boldly took to the stage at the Wardrobe Theatre, completely at our mercy as we were given the opportunity to influence the direction of the play they ultimately performed. Needless to say we were an imaginative audience.
Given the premise – six people stranded on a desert island – it was our role to choose how they got there. Read out by narrator figure James Trickey, the colourful suggestion “Donald Trump falling into a vat of boiling chocolate” sparked a quip about walls, rousing cheers from the politically acute audience.
Our pipe-smoking, scarf-wearing, wisdom-exuding narrator finally settled, however, on the premise of a tornado which had displaced the villagers Wizard of Oz-style.
The improvisers thus assumed their roles as villagers in this new environment. Pravanya Pillay shone as Debbie, a plucky farmer thwarted by sand, alongside the elderly, chequers-playing Tracy, played by Nia Evans, whose quick wit had the audience in stitches on more than one occasion.
The comedic tension between rival postmen Terry (Owen Atkinson) and John (Rob Cooper) was also hilarious, reaching deeper emotional levels as they did their best to continue “postman-ing” on the island.
Every drama must have its romantic hero and we certainly got that in James Trickey’s hunky Sergeant Nichols, whose very presence on stage, as he flexed his muscles and winked at the crowd, had the audience howling with laughter.
Naturally, a series of love triangles developed – yet, less conventionally, they involved large-armed knitted jumpers and shovels of various sizes.
Every one of the improvisers thrived in these scenes of romantic tension, particularly Polly Adams as Sandra, whose gentle mumsy character won over Sergeant Nichols and spent the remainder of the show zipping him, and everyone else, into various hand-made garments.
Judging by the audience reaction alone, the play was a huge success; the humour felt genuine and spontaneous – minor slips only provided material for further comedy.
The drama was fast paced, divided perfectly by comically timed blackouts (provided by Lighting Tech Anna Kemp). The addition, too, of improvised live guitar by Patrick Levermore throughout gave a strong sense of cohesion as the tone of the music adapted fluidly to the tone of the play.
I wasn’t sure what to expect upon entering the intimate theatre space, but any concern I had was entirely unfounded; Bristol Improv once again delivered a performance that was relentlessly funny and hugely engaging – without props, costume or script the resounding success of the night is a testament to the obvious talent of the actors involved.