What Does the Title Matter Anyway?, Underbelly, McEwan Hall, comedy review

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Edinburgh Festival 2014: The first line-up in a rotating cast was a strong one

“This is not the same as the television programme,” Clive Anderson said immediately at the reunion of the stars of Whose Line Is It Anyway? - which is an odd way to start an evening of comedy.

He was issuing a disclaimer that C4’s improv show with silly games has nothing – get that, really nothing - to do with the improv show with silly games the same cast are performing in McEwan Hall.

The legal niceties have to be observed because Hat Trick, producers of the TV show, which spawned a generation of improvisational comics, objected to the Fringe promoters calling theirs Whose Live Show Is It Anyway?;  after lawyers had an expensive chat it has been changed to What Does the Title Matter Anyway? and Anderson has to start each show with a carefully worded statement – after which it becomes a  don’t-mention-the-war-style running gag.

To the comedy, which thankfully was as good as memory serves for those who watched the TV show’s 1988-98 run and the large proportion of  the audience who know it from YouTube or reruns on Dave.

The first line-up in a rotating cast - Josie Lawrence, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops and Stephen Frost (Mike McShane, Phill Jupitus, Marcus Brigstocke and Richard Vranch appear on other dates) - was a strong one.

 

This being a live show unfettered by Ofcom rules, the suggestions from the audiences were mostly genital or lavatorial and the first game was a brothel in a dentist’s surgery – “Which hole do you want filled?” - and soon after Lawrence was a musical bartender (to the piano accompaniment of Philip Pope) curing the ills of her drinkers, Mochrie’s missing penis and Proops’ incontinence.

The games – “All slightly different for complicated legal reasons” – included a musical involving a duck, in which Lawrence womanfully managed not to do the obvious rhyme despite Proops’s mischievousness, and Lawrence and Mochrie as Austen characters in a Hungarian film, translated by Frost and Proops. Sadly none involved props (possibly another legal imperative).

Not every sketch worked as brilliantly, although Anderson was quick to end things on a good gag, and a game involving two fans coming on stage to manipulate Proops and Mochrie’s bodies as they acted out a film about dinosaurs and rabbits - which could have been a weak point - was a highlight.

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