Pros: Fun, engaging and unique.
Cons: A bit disjointed, and the cast are too focused on individual performances to excel as a group.
I can’t say I’ve ever seen a show at Etcetera Theatre in Camden that really knocked it out of the park, but I also won’t deny I’ve enjoyed myself on every visit to the tiny black box theatre above the Oxford Arms. The venue is a favourite of fledgling companies and productions, and valiantly supports up-and-coming artists trying to get their work in front of an audience. For that reason, I’m always keen to check out what’s on, because despite the flaws and uncertainty, it’s really delightful to see theatre-makers fleshing out their work and to feel a part of that process. The same rule applies to theatre’s recent featuring of London-based comedy and improv troupe The Show Offs’ Improvised Musical experiment; it was great fun to see the talented team’s ambitious attempts to create a musical based on audience suggestions, but it was no means a well-oiled machine.
The cast consists of a director, a composer and five actors. If you’ve ever seen the TV program Who’s Line Is It Anyway? you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I experienced at the Show Offs’ musical. Once all the audience members were settled in, the director asked us to call out suggestions that would later serve as the backbone of the musical’s ‘script’. We tossed out several famous musical styles, well-known films, genres and settings. From each category the director chose one option. In a matter of minutes, our musical became Don’t Drop the Soap, an American prison escape drama featuring numbers in the style of Grease, Book of Mormon and more, and with a touch of Nigella Lawson and EastEnders. It was as random and disjointed as its sounds, but also quite good fun.
It must be said that creating an hour long musical on the spot is an incredibly difficult feat. The Show Offs certainly did ten million times better under pressure than I could ever dream of doing myself. That said, it wasn’t the finest improvisation work I’ve ever seen. With so much information and variables, I’m not surprised. Nevertheless, I was slightly disappointed that the troupe, although talented and individually quite funny, didn’t seem synced up. They were constantly catching each other up on their own jokes, ambling far too long through scenes, often forgetting details and seemed generally more interested in their own performances than shining as a group. It also took longer than I would have liked for the cast to work into a groove, but a particularly funny bit of EastEnders references in toward the finale really brought up the energy and hilarity.
I’d recommend checking out their future musical appearances, but looking at it less like a show and more like a game: how good can your own suggestions be? How can you as an audience member set the show up for optimal hilarity? Go into it for the sake of fun and you’ll be sure to have fun: despite some flat jokes and muddled scenes, I had a blast and I’d love to see more variations of The Show Offs’ work.
Producer: The Show Offs
Booking Info: This show has now completed its run. Follow The Show Offs on Twitter for dates of future appearances.