Comedy: Quick wit in the round
COMEDY STORE PLAYERS SHAKESPEARE'S GLOBE LONDON
Thursday 22 July 1999
The "sold out" signs for the Comedy Store Players' one-off improv performance at Shakespeare's Globe had been plastered on the box office for days. Those lucky enough to grab a ticket were not disappointed. The troupe (which consisted of Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, Andy Smart, Jim Sweeney, Neil Mullarkey, Richard Vranch and Lee Simpson) seemed to feed off the boisterous audience.
Performing twice a week at the Comedy Store over the last 14 years, the Players have perfected the art of spontaneous silliness. Indeed, it's a case of the sillier, the better: as Sweeney pointed out: "talking bollocks is an intrinsic part of this show". Their daftness also helps them hurdle the greatest pitfall for improvisers: terminal smugness.
Although occasionally falling into the trap of extracting a cheap laugh from a crude gesture, the Players excel at imaginative incongruities. In one routine, Merton had to sing a show-stopping panto number about a torture chamber: "My torture song is very simple," he crooned. "I'll tell you anything you want to know."
Ever alert to comic possibilities, the Players were also able to exploit the theatre's period surroundings. In an extended musical spy spoof, Q (Merton) wandered over to the side of the stage and told Bond (Smart): "I'll show you what you need for this mission. This may look like an ordinary pillar, but actually..."
The audience was frequently as quick-witted. When asked to suggest a type of theatre, one man shouted out from the open-air arena: "One with a roof." Later we were invited to think of a title for a Shakespeare play, and someone proposed "Hey Nonny Nonny, My Dog Has Got the Pox".
After an evening of comedy often sharp enough to cut your finger, I heard a man on the way out of Shakespeare's Globe confide in his companion: "You know what I liked best about tonight? There was no actual Shakespeare in it."
A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food