Bachman Turner Improvise

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Bachman Turner Improvise wouldn’t exist were it not for the Leicester Comedy Festival. A group of a dozen or so local comics and actors formed the troupe following the Summer Raspberry event the festival staged in 2004 – and now they’re an established part of the city’s comedy landscape.

Only five of them appeared at the Ship Of Fools venue tonight, their last of four festival shows playing improv’s usual tried and tested games of the kind once seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Although this format is simple, getting it right is much harder. The world – especially the other side of the Atlantic – is awash with poor-quality improv groups who use the lack of script as an excuse for the lack of comedy.

Thankfully, Bachman Turner Improvise aren’t among them, although their relative inexperience does sometime reveal itself.

The quintet - referred to only by their first names of Steve, Helen, Clive, Dave and Mark – are best on the quickfire moments, where games such as ‘the world’s worst…’ gives them the chance to fire off one-line ideas as they occur to them.

Less successful are the longer-form games, where they must extrapolate a story or plot from some simple audience premise. For example, a story told alternately in the style of the Sunday Sport, Angling Times and Mallory Towers boarding school capers made almost no coherent sense as the performers struggled to keep a thread going between them.

Of course, chaos is part of the fun of improv; and audiences are very forgiving of lapses, even to the extent that minor mistakes are almost encouraged as proof that the sketch is spontaneous. But there were moments this troupe tested this goodwill a little too much.

Yet all five contributed something entertaining to the mix, with each of them chucking in a killer line at one point to perk things up. The stand-out star, though, was Dave, whose consistently strong presence gave a backbone to the show and whose quick wit provided many of the best laughs - but he was also generous enough to set others up for them too.

Also on the plus side was all five’s sense of fun, and willingness to give almost any suggestion a try – however much it seemed it would lead them into a blind alley.

Another criticism might be a slight over-reliance on the gross or disgusting to get themselves out of a hole, a feeling not helped by the fact Dave brought along friends whose suggestions were intent on getting him to degrade himself as a chronic masturbator in as many sketches as possible

Overall, then a half-decent improv troupe – which is a rare enough beast – that might be lacking those crucial stage hours to give them a sixth sense about their interaction, but still offering up an entertaining enough evening.

Steve Bennett, Leicester Comedy Festival, February 2006

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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