The Parentheticals: Improdyssey
Reviewed – 11th August 2019
“The performers consistently find unexpected and imaginative comic goldmines in each scene”
If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, take note: Improdyssey is not for you. This is a story set in the 13th century that features tattoo parlours, pizza, and a climax involving significantly more cats than one would ever expect. For everyone else: make sure you check out this new show from The Parentheticals – it’s an absolute riot.
As a disclaimer, your experience of the show may not entail any of the above, as this is a medieval quest entirely improvised based on audience suggestions. My version of Improdyssey was entitled ‘The Ring of Doom’, which centred on a priest (Sean Toole) and a butcher (Guillaume Desqueyroux) trying to acquire the titular ring from a wizard (Brendan Way) before a murderous tattoo artist (Joe Colgan) exploits its powers to commit further crimes. The four performers take on a host of other roles, including grandsons, Jesuits, ghosts, and God Himself, fleshing out a world of madcap, occasionally Python-esque characters.
However, the show’s chief focus of course is not its story, but instead ensuring that you’re laughing as frequently as possible, and on that count it’s largely a runaway success. The performers consistently find unexpected and imaginative comic goldmines in each scene, and even in instances where it’s clear that there’s a struggle to drive the plot, it’s handled in a way that invites greater comedic potential. Every moment is weaponised to be as hilarious as possible.
The audience also play an important part – as well as providing the initial building blocks of the story, they often fuel the scenes. In an exercise that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Whose Line is it Anyway?, the audience are asked to write movie quotes on bits of paper before the show, that the performers will later use as phrases, thoughts, and advice for their characters to spontaneously share. Other, more interactive examples see members invited to the stage to move the actors around or finish their sentences. Allowing the audience to be integral parts of the action in this way further establishes an atmosphere of creativity, playfulness, and total chaos.
Thanks to the talents of the performers, however, it always feels as though they are in total control of that chaos. Colgan in particular was exceptionally quick-witted, deftly delivering constant laughs while also guiding scenes to keep the plot moving at a tight pace. It was noticeable that at times it felt two performers were both trying to force their version of the scene onto the other, which led to some of the aforementioned instances where the story stalled, but then that’s also part of the inherent excitement of improvisation – knowing it could all go awry at any moment.
Luckily, Improdyssey barely goes awry. You’ll struggle to find a more unabashedly gleeful hour of comic delight than with the medieval questing on offer here.
Reviewed by Ethan Doyle
The Parentheticals: Improdyssey
Etcetera Theatre until 12th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: