Mayday! The Musical

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no worse comedy that bad improv; so it’s only natural to approach Brighton’s youthful Mayday troupe with trepidation. The fact that they deal in musical improv lowers the expectation bar even more.

So it’s a relief to discover that they have got talent. They are rough around the edges, for sure, but they deal with their flaws with enough flair to get away with it.

Unlike the improv games of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, they take only one suggestion from the audience: the title of the musical which they are to create. So tonight, the Brighton Comedy Festival witnesses the opening – and closing – night of Oceanic Sci-Fi: The Musical.

The four girls and two guys on stage, plus their pianist to the side, have the confidence, quick-thinking minds and vocal talent to be able to riff decently around a spontaneous tune. They don’t promise the verses will always rhyme – and the lyrics won’t be winning any Olivier awards – but they triumph in spirit and verve.

Holding together a plot proves more problematical. Scenes contradict each other, storylines go wildly awry, and far too often no one seems sure what on earth’s supposed to be going on. Nobody’s expecting Shakespeare, but the team frequently seem like they’re not singing off the same songsheet, and the result is a jumbled mess.

Mistakes are the lifeblood of improv, of course, with many a chuckle coming from seeing the performers grasp for ideas, struggle to react to the story twist their colleagues inadvertently throw up or explain away some inadvertent surrealism. Mayday laugh off these things with good grace, creating a bonhomie that spreads to the audience – but the story gets too far away from even its own tenuous internal logic to sustain a whole hour. When characters in two separate scenarios, miles apart, end up sharing the same stage with no possible way of explanation, something is most definitely awry. Plus the laughs a bungled narrative generates are definitely subject to diminishing returns.

As well as not keeping their collective eye on the ball, the team also don’t throw up quite enough jokes, although there are a handful of notable exceptions, normally of the visual kind. It’s their Knockabout disposition that gets the vast majority of laughs, rather than flashes of rapier wit.

But the power of that spirit shouldn’t be underestimated. They are all naturally enjoyable performers, and react to the pitfalls of their own making with a freewheeling devil-may-care attitude that translates into easy fun for the audience. For its flaws, this is a show that will sweep you merrily along on its own sense of fun, and that’s the key. If the team have enough confidence to plough on regardless, we trust them.

That, plus the excellently realise musical numbers, suggest Mayday won’t need to be sending out an SOS for their own future just yet.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Brighton Comedy Festival, October 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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