Four stars

Within five minutes of arriving at the press preview for the Oxford Imps latest production, all I can ask myself is how I can have been oblivious to this troupe of comic genius for so long. The second thing is, can they really be improvising this? The seamless ensemble performance is hugely impressive, and absolutely hilarious.

“Are you sitting comfortably?” involves five actors, a musician and announcer (who is also in charge of hilarious sound effects) improvising a fifties radio play for one hour in the Burton Taylor Studio. Inspired by 1950s classics such as ‘Dick Barton: Special Agent!’, the actors create an offering of comedy, romance and mystery based solely on audience suggestions. In fact, audience members can even bring along their own props which will be incorporated into the production as sound effects. Trivial and off-beat dialogue is transformed by the use of keyboardist improvising alongside the actors, while a foley artist sloshes water from glass to glass, tinkles wind chimes and flaps an umbrella around in order to create the necessary background noise, often catapulting props into the audience. If you have ever listened to ‘The Archers’ and wondered how they create their sound effects, all will be revealed by the Imps.

The joy of watching a radio show being performed is the immense amusement which aspects such as these provide. Perhaps the downside is the distraction of watching the actors onstage, rather than listening to their dialogue. With a tendency to laugh at their own comic creations, moments of the performance are deflated by having the actors’ reactions right before the audience. However, this is probably the only criticism I have. The outstanding teamwork of the Imps carries the script to outrageous extremes which somehow work. There is, of course, no assurance that each performance at the BT will be to an equally high standard as no two shows will be the same. No doubt there will always be the audience members determined to make the job of the actors as difficult as possible. But if this was anything to go by, this highly talented group of actors can make pretty much anything a laughing success.

10th-14th March at 21:30
Price £4 for students