Voices In Your Head

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Like all the best ideas, the premise for Voices In Your Head is so simple, you wonder why no one thought of it before. Or perhaps they did, but never managed to capitalise on it.

This is an hour of improv games, but instead of taking audience suggestions, the performers are guided by a God-like voice, calling them to the stage and describing the characters or scenarios he wishes them to play out.

God, in this case, is normally comedian Deborah Frances-White, the creator of the format and best known for touring the country with her flirtatious tips on getting people to sleep with you. Tonight, though, she was indisposed and replaced by follow improviser Paul Foxcroft, aided by Sarah Bennetto doing all things technical.

Perhaps it was this last-minute substitution, but the Halloween-themed show as part of the Leicester Square Theatre’s 13th Hour comedy-horror season had the feeling that everyone was feeling their way around an unfamiliar idea – even more so than your average improv night.

It started with the instructions to the audience, projected in hard-to-read black on dark green, with the bottom lines falling off the screen, and churning round too quickly for anyone to read. And it continued when Foxcroft forgot to use the device of pinging a bell to make the characters change their last line... and when reminded, suddenly went into overdrive without much thought as to where it might judiciously be used.

The team –  Jessica Pidsley, John-Luke Roberts, Matt Bannister and Charlotte Gittins – produced scenes of varying humour, beginning with a game in which they were prompted by items handed to them, from a pitchfork to a ventriloquist’s dummy, with the Voice asking leading questions to draw out a horrific tale.

Performers didn’t always get what he was driving at, but some spooky stories nonetheless emerged. Pidsley and Bannister, both Rada-trained, treated it more like a drama exercise, and tended to put characterisation above gags – although witty ideas weren’t beyond either of them. Roberts tended to be a little more surreal, and more overtly funny, but without losing the internal credibility of the fantasy scenes.

The results tended, though, to be solid rather than hilarious. The team managed to ad lib effective, self-contained campfire anecdotes against the odds, peppered with laughs. That is except for the finale, when Foxcroft’s Voice set up an overly convoluted sequel to an earlier trick-or-treat tale that got burdened down with premise – not to mention the belated discovery of that bell.

Voices In Your Head is a strong idea, as proven by the good reviews it got up in Edinburgh, but tonight’s version gave only spectral hints of how it could be brilliant, rather than leaving the small audience howling.

Review date: 31 Oct 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Square Theatre

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