Xprov: Extreme Improvised Comedy

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

If ever a comedy genre was in need of revitalisation, it's improv; the category second only to student revues for inflicting atrocities on audiences.

Now this band of upbeat Kiwis have come up with their solution, combining the formulaic games of Whose Line Is It Anyway? with one of their nation's leading exports: dumb sports.

Xprov is subtitled Extreme Improvised Comedy, and from that ­ and the bloodied face on the posters - you might expect some sort of hybrid involving the agonising antics of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow and the usual request for 'film and theatre styles'. The truth is a lot less painful ­ both for the participants and the viewers.

There's a certain level of silly low-level violence going on: clothespegs on the nipples, moustraps on the fingers, that sort of thing. But nothing so intense you want to look away in disgust. It's more slapstick than S&M.

Their idea of gross-out is improvising a scene with a mouthful of dry Weetabix, which ends up sprayed across the stage, and the other performers. Possibly the most bizarre game involves performing a fairytale blindfold, all the while trying to dodge flying lettuces suspended from the ceiling. Mediocre improv needs something to make it interesting, why not salad ingredients on a string?

And yes, the improv is as undistinguished as many similar shows, but there's a certain manic inspiration in making the show so gloriously silly and messy that the many failings of the unscripted material are unimportant to the show. Instead it's carried by the spirited performances of the participants.

Tonight Jeremy Elwood, Jamie Bowen and ringmaster Sully O'Sullivan rose to the challenge, although the line-up rotates from night to night, ostensibly to preserve the well-being of the team. However, it's their stuffed toys, not the comics, who endure the real torture, with a stuffed monkey making the ultimate sacrifice tonight, having his nose removed with a hacksaw. Now that's entertainment...

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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