Lights! Camera! Improvise! at The Arcola Theatre

Lights! Camera! Improvise! Works in the following way: Oscar the director (Jonathan Sayer) has the largest collection of films in the world including that could ever have been made. He invites the audience to mentally peruse the shelves and shout out a situation (based upon a certain theme e.g. disaster, Halloween, Valentines) which the actors will suddenly find themselves in.

Oscar will pause the movie, rewind it for a replay, show clips from other films and comment on particular scenes and characters. Not only does this provide a humorous way to engage with the audience, it allows Sayer to subtly make suggestions to the actors and alter the course of dialogue if it looks to be going stale.

Once again with this show Mischief Theatre Company show their fantastic range of comic potential. In a Texan bowling alley soon to be destroyed by a meteor (along with the rest of the world but just that little bit sooner) ‘Smithy’ (Dave Hearn) is dissatisfied with his life and is prepared to use anything, even the apocalypse, to be reunited with his wife and child. Hearn, fantastically creative and perfectly deadpan, is a strong centre around which the cast seemed to find suitable roles to fill. It started with impressive fluidity, the actors taking their characters to the limits of their stereotypes especially Joshua Elliot with his overly friendly parental skills and Henry Shields as ‘The Sheriff’. The scenes were often superb and created unforgettable moments, satirizing contemporary movies from every genre. It’s a refreshing thing to see actors clearly enjoying themselves on stage. Anyone who has ever fooled around with friends will recognise and relate to the bizarre but beautiful situations that you can find yourself in. However without a script to fall back upon it is easy to see where the chemistry lies and where in places it sometimes falls away. Occasionally the cast heads down
a dead end and though they look desperate to remove themselves from certain banal topics they are sometimes drawn back onto it by performers who are not in tune with the others. Fortunately Niall Ransome and Sayer however are brilliant at picking up loose ends and steering the show back onto the right tracks. Although the show almost required an interval to allow the cast to regroup,
the momentum took a little while to pick up in the second half. But with the help of the expertly coordinated music from Rob Falconer, it was soon re-energized and back to its dramatic, hilarious self.

For the most part the show gave off a freshness and the high quality of the individual performances sustained the action. Mischief Theatre Company as always, provide a brilliantly funny show and prove that they have their finger on the pulse of comedy.

Author: Greg Wilkinson

Greg has a passion for all of the dramatic arts. He is a keen theatregoer and enjoys unique, quirky shows and venues.