I am normally very happy writing reviews, recalling what I liked, sometimes what I didn’t like, but generally handing out compliments like free samples at a convention of free samples. That’s theatre though - my comfort zone; a place where I’m very experienced, have empathy with what goes on behind the scenes, and know what it takes to get a show to the stage.
When it comes to the world of improv comedy, such as the show from Suffolk’s Insert Laughter Here, which I’m attempting to review in the subsequent few hundred words, I’m less sure of myself and the etiquette of what I should and shouldn’t highlight. Such is the nature of improv comedy - lightning in a bottle stuff - there’s little point being too specific about what I enjoyed or didn’t, because it probably won’t ever happen again. I’m rambling now, so let’s delve a little into what I saw from the company at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay.
Firstly, let’s set the scene. There were four main performers on the night, Mark, Helen, Nick P and Nick R, all enthusiastically strutting their stuff alongside company Director Aaron Weight in the role of host/chaos orchestrator. The stage was bare, save for a few chairs and a black backdrop, but it was the performers who added the colour and filled the space with their physicality.
The first half was a frenetic mix of their comedy games, including Freeze! where the performers randomly stopped to creatively and hilariously divert the action from its course; Party Quirks, where one of the four had to identify their guest’s ridiculous ‘quirk’ (chosen by the audience); and Gogglebox, a hysterical and pacey flick through various genres of film and TV. There were far too many games to mention, and each cleverly crafted to keep the audience invested. With such a variation of games, it was inevitable that there might be the occasional dip, and one that didn’t work for me was the Letter of Complaint (that sort of one word at a time story game you might have played as children), where no-one really covered themselves in any glory, including the audience, with a lack of invention.
The second half was entirely centred around their new concept, Spin-A-Play - a sort of comedy wheel of fortune where the audience is invited to suggest genres for an improvised play that the team will come up with. So, nothing like Wheel of Fortune at all, other than the wheel. Throughout the action, we were asked for suggestions to shape the way the play unfolded right up to its hilarious ending. It was a really difficult concept to keep both on track and creatively focused, but they managed it really well, with no shortage of fun and laughs along the way.
Of the performers, Nick P looked most at home in this setting, oozing charm and energy in every scenario he was thrust into, and he was consistently enjoyable and funny to watch. And while I appreciate that someone had to host, it was almost a shame that it was Aaron, as I’d have liked to have seen him more in the thick of it, as it was very clear when he did get involved that he has an obvious aptitude for this class of comedy.
My only real criticism was that the chemistry between all the performers didn’t appear to be quite there. Now, I’m sure they all get along fine, but sometimes they just didn’t seem to be on the same comedic wavelength, and it made for the occasional stodgy and cringey moment.
Overall, it was a brilliant evening though, full of energy and invention, and most importantly of all, infectious humour. Well worth checking out. If you missed out on their first full length show of 2023, fear not, there’s another chance coming up soon to catch Insert Laughter Here in action. They’ll be at the Hunter Club in Bury St Edmunds on the 13th May, with tickets available via hunterclub.org.uk