The Ministry of Improv provide an evening of friendly silliness for all that attend. The friendliness is made clear in the warmth shown towards the audience throughout the show. The silliness comes from the short comedy scenes performed by some of the most experienced improvisers in Birmingham.
Each show has a different theme. Tonight it was “A bit of posh”, beginning with each audience member being announced loudly to the whole room as if attending a grand ball. This emphasised just how much the performers want to bond with the audience and make the evening fun for them. Awarding a box of chocolates to the most poshly dressed audience member reinforced this, the winner kindly sharing these with the rest of the audience during the interval. Simultaneously, this approach set the tone for an evening covering art criticism, Shakespeare, modern drama and more.
The artwork under criticism was a collection of items donated by the audience and given centre stage on a wooden plinth. The Ministry of Improv then analysed this artwork and it’s deeper meaning, poking fun at the joyless attitudes of such reviewers. Each character brought their own viewpoint to bear – Jon Trevor’s working class intellectual explaining the folded umbrella represented the removal of protection for the weakest in society, and the set of car keys a constant drive for more and more produce from the workers.
Given the audience suggestion of a carrot, four performers constructed a Shakespearean sonnet to this wonder vegetable. Impressively the group both set up and completed rhymes for each other while sticking tightly to the traditional 14-line structure. The group also worked well together when opening the second half with a section of interpretative dance, guided by music from Paul Messer, and performing a radio play about Henry VIII.
Individually there were also great moments. Lee Dempsey found half a dozen different ways to play snooty characters, Simon Britton’s William Shatner had the couple behind me in stitches, and Matt Vaughan-Wilson’s panto villain fired up the whole audience. For me, the most delightful moment was when Kate Knight managed to fit the audience suggestion of “DJ” into the Tudor-era radio play. By risking failure in each scene, improv makes the successes all the more memorable.
The Ministry of Improv perform at The Old Joint Stock the last Wednesday of the month.
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