STARSHIP IMPROVISE at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“the plots take just enough unexpected leaps into comic hyperspace that the show is never dull”
Starship Improvise is the perfect piece for fans of classic sci-fi franchises like Star Trek, and the fan conventions that sprang up in their wake. As we all remember, Galaxy Quest was the movie that made fun of both. Starship Improvise will remind audiences of Galaxy Quest, with the add-ed attraction of a show that allows plenty of room for the cast to improvise around the chosen themes for the evening. Judging by the line that waited on the afternoon I was there, actors from the Mischief, Austentatious and Showstopper! companies have found another winner to present as part of their comedy franchise at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. What’s cool about Starship Improvise is that you can just see one show, or you can keep showing up for them all. There’ll be a different episode to improv every time, and a changing cast as well.
The set up in Starship Improvise is as follows: the actors of the popular sci-fi series of Celestia Seven are attending a fan convention. The cast file on stage, talk a bit about the series, what it means to them, and what was really going on behind the scenes. They decide they are going to select a favourite episode, and replay it for the fans. On this particular day, the chosen Celestia Seven episode is all about the Captain’s Birthday. The opening location is the Engine Room, and the emotional theme is Joy. With the parameters set for the improvisations, the cast gets to work. The members of the crew are an obvious mash up of various incarnations of Star Trek, with the tough but emotionally vulnerable captain, the overly logical ship’s surgeon whom she has recently broken up with; the ship’s empath, and of course, the resident alien, who runs around trying to understand humans. In place of the Spock character from Star Trek, however, we have Lab Rador from Canis Major in Celestia Seven.
As the improv gets going, there are lots of opportunities for Starship Improvise to make fun of everything from toxic masculinity to vegetable metaphors. Hmm. Not everything has to make sense, and the audience gets a huge amount of enjoyment from watching the actors miss their cues, mess up their motivations, or just run into a problematic plot line that they can’t get out of. There are moments when we see the tensions between cast members in Celestia Seven spill out into Starship Improvise. It’s all part of the fun, but it’s tough on Method Actors, for some reason.
Co-creator Adam Megiddo (who also plays Lab Rador), and fellow actors Dave Hearn, Ruth Bratt, Charlotte Gittins, Henry Lewis and Henry Shields wing it for every show. They have a list of characters and their various (complicated) relationships both on and off the stage in their heads, and they take it from there. They obviously relish the “act by the seat of your pants” set up in Starship Improvise. And with reason. They have a bunch of devoted fans in the audience who are quite happy to watch anything they do.
Starship Improvise is an easy and entertaining way to spend an hour at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s true that it does rely a little too much on familiar memes and themes. But the plots take just enough unexpected leaps into comic hyperspace that the show is never dull. Sometimes it’s good to just settle back in one’s seat, and enjoy the fun.
Reviewed 7th August 2022
by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Andrew Pugsley
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