Preview: The Oxford Imps

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It is what can reasonably be called a fairly significant term for the Oxford Imps. Between their weekly shows at the Wheatsheaf, the ambitious improvised murder mystery musical that the troupe currently has in development, and the tenth anniversary variety show at Oxford’s New Theatre on Thursday 13th February, we’ll be seeing a lot of these people.

The Anniversary show is, by any measure, an ambitious undertaking. A troupe that’s generally to be found performing above a pub will soon find itself in one of Oxford’s most prestigious venues, demonstrating their skill to a wider audience as well as hosting professional and critically acclaimed acts from TV and radio. No pressure, then…

Of course, the Imps have nothing to fear. Veterans of the Edinburgh Fringe for the past decade, and with a roster consisting of old hands and fresh blood introduced every year, the Imps have made a serious name for themselves. They started performing in January 2004, when improvised comedy was in the doldrums in Britain.

Their reputation has soared since then, and rightly so – to see the Imps in action is to be astonished by the quicksilver nature of their comedy. The speed at which the performers can construct a narrative and react to suggestions while keeping the material light and funny is amazing to behold. I was fortunate enough to see the Imps in a rehearsal workshop, and the scope of their improvisation was breathtaking- the same premise practised twice resulted in two utterly different routines, both exceedingly funny even at an early stage in development.

Of course, the Imps are not the only attraction for the show. Acclaimed names Morgan and West, Rachel Parris and Ivo Graham having been drafted in to provide variety for the Imps’ big celebration.

It is in the very nature of an anniversary celebration to look back on what has gone before, and to take stock on where you find yourself. In the case of the Imps, however, their anniversary celebrations are a motivation to push their act to further heights.

The tenth anniversary show is not simply an excuse for the Imps to pat themselves on the back- this term’s work is an expression of confidence and ambition in equal measure, and leaves little doubt that this is a group of artists that are very much in a state of creative and artistic ascension. Ten years is only the beginning.

 

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