Preview: The Play’s the Thing

Cherwell’s verdict: “An imps-spired idea”

What is so impressive about the Imps? Their Monday night performances at the Wheatsheaf leave us incredulous; how the heck do they come out with such brilliance on the spot  Yet they seem to be undeterred by more ambitious challenges, taking on the bard himself in their latest offering The Play’s the Thing.

Is it possible to improvise a Shakespearian play? That is exactly the challenge that lies before our protagonist who believes that he can blag his way through a week’s worth of research by unveiling a previously unpublished folio. The tragicomedy that follows will be entirely new each night, with an interchangeable cast that – as one Imp claimed – is chosen by flipping a coin. Such a serendipitous approach is the key to the Imps’ trademark style – bewildering the audience into laughter by turning day to day situations upside down. Highlights include the exile of the King’s daughter for the heinous crime of rollerblading, and watching the delightfully camp heir to the Cretan throne suffers profusely from a paper cut. Beyond the absurdity it is obvious that they are all great actors. Creating a decent soliloquy is no mean feat, so Sylvia Bishop’s ability to come up with one on the spot was stupefying. The entire cast were extremely responsive to each other, perhaps unsurprisingly given that some have now been performing together for a couple of years and have sold out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.  There is definitely a degree of experience that sets it apart from amateur productions – rather than simply peppering the dialogue with “art thou”s and “hither”s the actors’ fluency in language, the harpsichord music, the man-tights all worked well to create an unmistakeably Shakespearian atmosphere. From power struggles, soliloquies to the dress-swapping plot devices – “And I shall dress as a peasant and go amidst the crowd… for I apparently enjoy doing so” – their cheeky take on our most revered national treasure makes it clear that they’ve done the bookwork.

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Tonight the Imps were in “work mode” – trying to see what got laughs rather than simply having fun on stage which is when their performance is at its best. In comedy, you get your energy from the crowd in front of you, and though the 4 of us “audience” members were laughing plentifully, it shows promise of being even more hilarious when they take it to the stage at the BT next week.