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Whose Line is it Anyway? (London Palladium)

Clive Anderson leads a familiar improv troupe in this stage presentation of the hit '90s TV show

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Josie Lawrence, Brad Sherwood, Clive Anderson, Colin Mochrie and Greg Proops
© Manuel Harlan

The Palladium provides an impressive backdrop for '90s improv show Whose Line is it Anyway?, whose fans will be more used to watching it on a 32 inch telly than a 47 foot West End stage.

And those fans won't be disappointed as the stage production is a carbon copy of the beloved sketch show. Clive Anderson hosts and most of his topical gags (Trump, EU referendum etc) land, but he's better behind his familiar desk than he is pacing the stage between skits. His nervous physicality looks out of place under the imposing proscenium arch of the Palladium.

The lineup includes usual suspects Brad Sherwood, Greg Proops, Josie Lawrence and Colin Mochrie, who are joined by Jeff Davis, a regular from the US version of the show. Even the musicians, Laura Hall (keyboard) and Linda Taylor (guitar) are imports from the televised production.

Sticking close to a proven formula, general hilarity ensues. The improv troupe rocket through well over 20 games with varying comical success. Particular audience favourites include a section where two bashful punters provide sound effects for Proops and Mochrie as they navigate a robot invasion on New Years Eve in Times Square, and a brave attempt by Mochrie and Lawrence to act out a cow milking scene in the style of Stephen Sondheim.

Improv is by no means new to theatre or indeed the West End - the wonderful Showstoppers enjoyed an extended run at the Apollo just last year - but there are several drawbacks to mounting a production on this scale. The moments of audience interaction, of which there are many, interrupt the show's pace as Anderson struggles to hear shouted suggestions over the din of a 2200 capacity crowd.

There's also the issue that most West End theatres require an interval (and accompanying bar revenue). At 30 minutes in length the TV episodes left you wanting more - as all good comedy should - but when the stage production lasts over two hours everything becomes a bit samey. On a separate note to the lighting designer: being blasted with blinding spotlights every time the audience laughs becomes really annoying, rather quickly.

All in all what Whose Line is it Anyway? lacks in originality it makes up for in bucketloads of laughs, but in this time of Netflix and on-demand telly, one wonders why anyone would pay West End prices when they can watch it at home for free.

Whose Line is it Anyway? runs at the London Palladium until 19 June.

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