I’m up here with two improvised shows, Showstopper and The School Of Night, both happily playing to busy houses at The Gilded Balloon, which is nothing less than a mysterious Eastern European Castle from those Wolfenstein video games, except with musical comedy in it. This is compounded by the quite frankly insane Medieval theme bar outside, which, on a busy night, makes waiting for a pint feel like queuing for a rollercoaster at Thorpe Park.
Improvisation (or Impro, or Improv, depending on your love of contractions or the letter “v”) is going from strength to strength at the Fringe, which is thrilling. Lots of new companies rubbing shoulders with the old guard – it was a joy meeting Mike McShane last night – he’s up with Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, and he really is the business. We are still in his debt for his guest spot on our first ever Edinburgh Show in 2008 – inside a metal Portakabin with no windows, 90 wonky seats, and door staff who sent our Scotsman reviewer away to another venue. Great days. Phil Jupitus has an impro show, great companies like The Scat Pack and The Noise Next Door are pushing improv in new directions, and there will soon be a separate section in the Fringe programme for improvised musicals. Yes, I am happy with all three versions of the “I” word. A thing about Impr (shorter than “impro” or “improv”, and markedly more difficult to pronounce, but essentially the same thing) is that it’s impossible to get settled into the run. Every night is opening night, and the nerves and tension don’t go away, so it’s been another gruelling year.
Showstopper is in its fourth year, so it feels like being a fixture (although many of the cast now have difficulty remembering what year it is, and have found themselves locked out of their own apartments until they realise that they are trying to get into a building they haven’t lived in since August 2009)
Final memories. Paul Daniels doing close-up magic to The School Of Night in a secluded nightclub booth. Drinking on the roof terrace of the Loft Bar with Fascinating Aida as the rain poured down around us. Alan Cox doing an impersonation of every other person on the planet at 5 a.m. in our kitchen. Brian May came to see Showstopper last night, and as a Queen fan of 35 years standing, it was all I could do not to replicate the Alice Cooper “We Are Not Worthy” scene from Wayne’s World. Yes, his hair is still that amazing. As are my dear colleagues in Showstopper and School Of Night, and our fantastic crew at the Gilded Balloon and Festival Highlights. Oh, and three years ago tonight we were on stage at George Square with Ken Campbell, not knowing he wouldn’t last the month. Ken, we still miss you so very, very much.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
Gilded Balloon Debating Hall
5-28 August (not 17)
22:50 (70 mins) plus family-friendly Tuesday matinee 15:20