In a room above a pub in central Birmingham there’s a monthly show that feels like a big bunch of friends getting together. The audience conversations cut across different rows of chairs, not just along the row with the people they’ve come with. At the interval, the performers chat with the crowd and each other in a way that feels more like a relaxed party than a comedy night. This Kneejerks show had the best atmosphere of any improv show I’ve seen.
At the start of the show, the audience revealed their New Year’s resolutions and these were used to inspire individual scenes. A pledge to gain weight led to a meeting of Weight Gainers Anonymous. A desire to spend more time with friends involved an old school friend moving in with somebody he’d not seen since. A promise to learn how to knit became a scene where the wife made deliberately terrible jumpers for her husband. This last scene was revealed to be an act of quiet frustration by the wonderfully snippy wife (Kate Knight) and the longer this went on, the deeper the problems that were revealed with both the jumpers and the couple themselves.
Next up, a couple of audience members were invited to tell everyone how their day had been. Elements of these stories were combined into a small comedy drama, where a couple who’d split up ran into each other again due to his friend marrying her assistant at work. Following that were a series of fortune cookie scenes, which would start off as normal and then pause mid-way for someone in the crowd to read out a randomly selected moral for the story. The stars aligned for the rhino hunting scene, where the hunt saboteur who’d turned up with no gun but lots of attitude was given a moral that led to laughs even before the performers used it on stage. I also really enjoyed some of the smaller moments here, such as the younger brother on his PlayStation (Jon Trevor) repeatedly saying he wanted another life, which in isolation was as funny as anything else you’ll see.
The show ended with a non-stop flow of back-to-back scenes, the highlight of the evening where both the performers and onlookers had the most fun. An unwanted birthday present led to the recipient (Suzie Evans) really letting her friend know what she thought of the gift, the honesty of her reaction creating more laughs than anything silly or crazy that might be typically associated with improv. This was followed by the biggest laugh of the night for vegan who ate meat (Dan McKee), explained because he didn’t want to be stereotyped & needed to earn a living from his catering business. All four performers worked well together in this sequence, creating a moment of joy in every scene. Catch them if you can.
The Kneejerks perform the third Wednesday of every month at The Victoria.