A completely improvised show, with music, you say? Not the most original idea, no - but one still guaranteed to be perpetually funny, fairly tense, and unequivocally barmy.
So it is with Made Up, a show produced by comedy troop Cartoon de Salvo featuring live music from The Adventurists. The premise of this show revolves around improvised story-telling, whether that be comedy or tragedy, with a format loosely directed by Alex Murdoch (who also performs).
The actual narrative however, is (as expected) made up on the spot. After input from the audience, the storyline, "Hunting the Shark" was chosen for this particular show. Funny in parts, and touching at intervals, the story swept up the viewers moment by moment as the actors began to construct characters, settings (both a boat and a desert island), and the plot.
Given that the mechanics of the show are completely transparent, the most comedic element of the performance is arguably the corpsing of the actors as they muddle through together towards the finish line.
However, various elements of this production do let the show down somewhat. At 90-minutes long, it is a struggle to maintain momentum in this show. At times, the lack of energy on stage seems to reflects the ebbing motivation of the performers to continue along particular plot lines.
However, Brian Logan is particularly adept at driving the action forward and maintaining the interest of the audience.
The saving grace of this show is most definitely the live music from The Adventurists, without whom the show would have suffered. The improvised music added dynamism, tension, and atmosphere, helping drive and reflect the story created by the actors. The impromptu songs by both actors and musicians are genuinely hilarious, and the tight relationship between the two is a marvel.
All in all, Made Up does promise laughter and surprise. The intimate space at the Soho Theatre upstairs, and the poignant use of actor-controlled lighting, both enhance the sentiment attached to any story line created. Performances are also, at times, inspired.
However, it is the musical element of this production that truly amazes, and ultimately renders the show a success.