Watch This is a theatre group based at the University of Birmingham. They specialise in longform improvisation, having performed everything from medical dramas to Shakespeare during the first half of 2016. For Improvabunga the audience determine the nature of the show, which the troupe then combines with a handful of other suggestions to create an enjoyable 45 minute play.
In this performance, the audience determined it should be a horror story about some witches in a chocolate factory. As is traditional for the genre, we began with a prologue from a creepy storyteller reading from a dusty book and hinting at the terrors we were about to see. Ominous musical accompaniment was supplied by Will Tuckwell, who added a welcome extra layer to the show by underscoring throughout.
The action started with four school children standing outside an abandoned factory. Grace Hussey-Burd was disturbingly realistic as Stacy, the bully of the group, pushing the other three around just because she could. Her “friends” were the gentle protagonist Samantha (Vita Fox), the scared and easily manipulated Alice (Tilds Blythe), and the lovesick & chocolate-obsessed Jimmy (Chris Conway). In this first scene we quickly learned about the relationships between these characters, a testament to the skills of the performers as improvised scenes with four characters are often unclear and messy. This introduction ended with Tilds singing a song about not being chicken, showing her character transform from being scared to proving herself and knocking on the factory door.
Meanwhile, within the factory we discovered evil goings-on. Elliott McDowell used his body to great effect as Madame Beelzebub, sending out malevolent vibes to fill the room as the villain of the piece. The evil henchman Smuggles provided the key link in the story between the innocent children and the wicked witch, allowing Will Jackson to demonstrate his problem-solving skills time and again. And so the stage was set for our adventurers to eat chocolate, be killed, transformed into witches and fight their way out again until only one escaped.
The highlight for me was the two detectives sent to investigate the mysterious goings on, DCI Peach and DCI Plum. This delightful pair added an extra layer of character-driven fun, with Vita Fox brilliantly channeling the bumbling copper stylings of Nick Frost in “Hot Fuzz”. It is moments like this which really stick with audiences, and transform such shows from feeling impressively clever to being great fun.
Watch This will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe in August
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