“Everything you will see tonight is completely made up!” the compère informs us gleefully, opening the evening for The Vortex, supported by Squidheart, an all-female improv comedy show at The Angel Microbrewery. With no scripts and no rehearsals, the content for the next few hours is unknown to both the audience and the performers, often right up until the words come out of their mouths.
For those unfamiliar with the art of improvised comedy, the jumping off point is often a suggestion or word shouted out by the audience which the performers will then build a scene or skit around. The performers, and by extension the audience, never know what’s going to happen next, so moment to moment anything could change, with the women on stage feeding off both each other and the audience.
Squidheart, a two-part improv project comprising of Kate Knight and Suzie Evans, launch into the first half with the suggestion of ‘caterpillar’. This spawns scenes of flat mates consoling each other after a night of questionable Cinco de Mayo drinking, two sisters naming a caterpillar Brian May, and some discussion with the audience over how many legs a caterpillar and/or centipede might have (we didn’t come to an exact figure, but someone informed the room it was an uneven number).
After a short interval, The Vortex bound on stage and begin with a game where the players take turns stepping forward, riffing off the word ‘anarchy’ (which one of the performers initially misheard as ‘Allen key’, and runs with it), until another steps forward and begins their riff using the last words spoken by the previous player. At one point, two performers step forward at the same time, and egged on by the audience’s laughter, manage to keep up talking in tandem for an impressively long time.
The night is a series of dramatic, spontaneous conversations between a revolving cast of characters, with situations beginning with the somewhat normal – a mother lecturing her daughter on her choice in men, a woman complaining to her partner about her missing Allen keys, or a couple planning their wedding at IKEA – and evolving into a delightful silliness – a baby conceived through a cat flap, a slow descent into tool-based madness, and a woman leaving her fiancé to instead marry a sausage dog.
After the main bulk of the evening there’s an improv jam, where members of the audience are invited up on stage to play improv games or enact scenes. There’s a questionable archeology dig, a game called ‘Postcards’ where Princess Leia and Boudica (more suggestions from the audience) send each other a series of increasingly enraged letters, and a scene that begins with a volunteer planting a chair centre stage and declaring “Come, ladies! It is time for you to worship me!”
Throughout the night there’s a real sense that you’re all playing the same game, and everyone is in on the joke because you’re all discovering it at the same time. Squidheart and The Vortex deliver unique performances that have the audience in stitches, on at least one occasion, the compère burying her head in her hands…
Miss Imp: The Vortex was at The Angel Microbrewery on Saturday 19 May 2018.