The King's Head Theatre
Where: Inner London
4 November 2008 WOS Rating: Average Reader Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews is an improvised musical playing each Monday night at the King’s Head – ominously re-branded, I note, as “the King’s Head Theatre and Bar” – right through to next March. By my calculation, we shall have something like 18 brand new musicals by then, enough to silence the doubters of the future health of the genre on the fringe. Showstopper!
Except, of course, no such devised musical will ever enter the repertoire. The point of improvisation is not to create important new work, but to reveal the adeptness or otherwise of the actors in getting themselves out of a spot and from point A to point B. Genius sometimes comes into it, if you have a
John Sessions or a Mark Lockyer on the bill. And one or two of the Sticking Place company come close.
Some of these performers worked with the late, great
Ken Campbell on this show in Edinburgh, when the starting point was a critical review of a musical that didn’t exist, except in the review. One critic, and contributor, oddly claimed that this was the show of his dreams as if he had been ingesting vast amounts of cheese.
This time, a bearded chairman,
Dylan Emery, takes plot tips from the audience, then a series of musical hints and finally a title. Our special show, “Liars Die Too,” was to tell a tale of corruption in Bethnal Green Town Hall with reference to Wagner, Gilbert and Sullivan, Sondheim and Gershwin.
Some of this was funny, some of it painful. That’s the deal with improv. I liked the idea of a character called Roger Barkingside, but that’s all he remained, an idea. The company includes brilliant practitioners such as
Oliver Senton (who played the lead in the 24-hour The Warp ten years ago), the blissfully comic Ruth Bratt, the gorgeous Pippa Evans and the untouchable Sean McCann.
There are bound to better nights than this, though, as we crunched our way towards some kind of narrative and forced our way into the most “prepared” part of the evening,
Adam Meggido’s fairly funny send-up of Sondheim. Addicts will return for richer pickings, while some will yearn for wittier, more intelligent satire along the lines of Forbidden Broadway.
- Michael Coveney
Score Comment Date Michael Coveney, as usual, is way out of touch. You don't go to an entirely spontaneously devised musical for a finished article, doh. And yet as I was there last night, I can report Showstopper is definitely a much more accomplished musical undertaking than most - it had, for me (and clearly for everyone else there save MC), more melody, more wit and more ingenuity than most musicals that takes months and years to write. And unlike Forbidden Broadway, which requires an almost clubbish knowledge of the minutiae of current shows, Showstopper revels in many glorious and cringeworthy elements of the musical genre that are universally recognisable. It's by far the most entertaining thing I've seen on the fringe all year, and I can only marvel at how they do it. - Theatresquirrel 04 Nov 08
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