The Thursday night of the On The Rocks Festival saw Blind Mirth’s 21st Anniversary performance. Improv is a new territory for me, so I was hesitant about what was in store. Truth be told, a couple of things worried me. First, I was worried about the idea of audience participation, something I loathe both in theory and practice. Second, I was worried I wouldn’t find it funny, based on some of last year’s reviews, and the fairly empty theatre.
I needn’t have been concerned. The performance was quite entertaining, and the audience participation was limited to giving suggestions, mostly on slips of paper written before the start of the show. For those new to improv, it works like a play, with a difference. Instead of playing to a script, the performers work spontaneously from ideas given to them by the audience. So to begin with, the audience was tasked with thinking up a location for the play. Someone shouted ‘seafood restaurant’ rather zealously, and the performance began.
From the start, Ed Polsue impressed with a stand out performance – both funny and incredibly well acted. Liam Mitchell also deserves a mention for being able to inject humour into scenes that otherwise had the potential to fall flat. As the play progressed, moving from restaurant to shop to police station, the rest of the performers came up with monologues, scenes, and characters. I found most of these funny, but I did feel they had a tendency to drag on a little. A particular favourite scene of mine was following a drag queen’s shopping trip, although this scene was fairly incongruent with the rest of the play. In general, the characters were fairly well developed, although some did make questionable decisions (losing all limbs). Reading off audience prompts every so often to keep the scenes fresh and the play moving forward worked quite well, in my opinion.
But, it was not always the smoothest of sailing. The Byre theatre was almost empty, although unfortunately for Blind Mirth, DONT WALK did fall on the same night. However, I felt some of the scenes went on for too long, and overall I’m not entirely sure where the play went, or how it managed to round back to the original idea. Moreover, it sometimes felt like a competition of ideas which, at times, meant the performers seemed to jostle for attention on the stage, stumbling over each other’s words. This resulted in a couple of stilted scenes, and some monologues which went on for a bit too long. I also felt as though momentum slowed a tad towards the end, as the scenes got more convoluted, and the plot ever more ridiculous. However, it was clear that the performers were, by and large, enjoying themselves – a quality I really admire in productions.
The performance finished with a quick game of ‘Sex With Me is Like’ which had the highest quota of audience participation of the night. We were tasked with shouting out random objects, which the performers would compare to ‘sex with me.’ Although this could easily have been a team-building exercise for an office team or class, the group were fairly witty, so it was an enjoyable watch. Overall did Blind Mirth convert me to an improv fan? I’m not 100% convinced the performance was enough to convert me, although I did find the performance enjoyable enough to recommend to a friend.