I came away from this performance positively battling with my conscience. How does one write a fair critical analysis for a production that will be completely different every single night? To begin the show the cast asked the audience to give them a title for their performance. The congregation eventually settled on ‘The Muppet Massacre’, and, without pause for thought, the company completely improvised what seemed an almost predetermined and relatively smoothly flowing performance. Depending on the title given by the audience, not only is each performance inevitably going to be different, but also, some will be more successful than others.

There’s no doubt that The Improsarios are well practised in their field of expertise. I admire them just for being able to jump into a performance without any deliberation. Providing we take for granted that there are no plotted audience members, this is an extremely impressive feat. Even if every night’s performance is different however, what I ultimately had to ask myself was: was the The Improsarios’ rendition of ‘The Muppet Massacre’ successful and entertaining?

From the start of the show, the audience seemed very geared up and excitable, happily calling out suggestions and willing to laugh. As time elapsed though, the reactions became less frequent, and less enthused. The cast appeared very relaxed, making them easy to watch, yet as a result, they seemed to have little adrenaline. There didn’t seem to be much passion, drive or energy in their performances, meaning they lacked magnetism and the audience were, unfortunately, able to disengage occasionally.

Attempting to create humorous moments, there were patches of immaturity. Searching for jokes, the comedy became a little childish at times. It’s fair to say that there were flashes of excellent, off-the-cuff comedy, but they were less common than the more ineffective efforts, which were a little cringe-worthy.

The cast also tried to facilitate more still, grounded and dramatic moments of comedy, but these happened a little too regularly, didn’t really go anywhere, and ultimately made the piece drag a little longer than necessary, meaning it actually became slightly boring.

In the company’s defence however, what they did manage to do is create some well-rounded, three-dimensional characters, work in tandem, and devise a relatively smooth plot in just under an hour, out of nothing. There were times when they ignored the fourth wall, showing us they knew that they were improvising, and that it could have gone wrong at any second - and these were the more exciting and funnier moments of the night; when the risk seemed at its highest. Generally, the show felt too easy and relaxed, with not enough risk.

Improvisation can be so exciting, funny and clever if actors approach the work with high energy, unstoppable drive, and a vastly open mind. If there is danger and excitement on stage, there is usually adrenaline, and adrenaline (used in the right way) will hook an audience, and make for a thrilling piece of theatre.

Before I conclude, I must state that it is possible that ‘The Muppet Massacre’ just didn’t work for this skilled team of actors. Perhaps they would respond better to other titles. It is hard, nearly impossible for improvisation (particularly comic) to be consistently entertaining. Based on this particular performance however, the show is lacking in charisma and sparkle.

Fresh, Live and Dead, at Theatre DelicatessenDavid Richards reviews Fresh, Live and Dead at Theatre Delicatessen.2